Marjorie Newton’s Account
of the Faith of the Māori Saints:
A Critical Appraisal

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Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori is a version of her 1998 thesis in which she rejects key elements of the Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative. This contrasts with her earlier, faith-affirming Tiki and Temple. In Mormon and Maori Newton targets what she sees as Māori/missionary mythology. She has written for different audiences; one was for secular religious studies scholars, while the other was for faithful Saints. Midgley rejects Newton’s claim that a Mormon American cultural imperialism requires Māori to abandon noble elements of their culture. Faithful Saints are liberated from the soul destroying behavior that results from the loss of traditional Māori moral restraints. Midgley insists that Newton has little understanding of the deeper structures of Māori culture.


Review of Marjorie Newton, Mormon and Maori (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014). 248 pp. $24.95 (paperback).



After Marjorie Newton’s PhD was approved in February 1998, a potential publisher sent me a Xerox copy of her thesis.1 I gave it careful attention. It turned out that my Māori friends had been right. At the Pioneers in the Pacific Conference held at BYU-Hawaii on 7–11 October 1997, at least two of them indicated that they doubted that [Page 180]she would do justice to the grounds and content of their faith. She would, they thought, ignore, downplay, or explain away matters sacred to them, and she would also be too critical of the way LDS mission presidents responded to the difficult issues they faced. They did not, however, make known how they came to know about her agenda.

I was also invited to evaluate her first effort to turn the two introductory chapters of her PhD thesis (MNZ, 1–84) into a history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints2 in New Zealand. There were, however, serious flaws in what I call “Newton’s Unpublished Manuscript,”3 one of which I will address in this appraisal of Mormon and Maori.

I was pleased when Tiki and Temple was published in 2012.4 It is a  fine, faith-affirming narrative history of the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand. She begins her account in 1854, when the periodic visits by Latter-day Saint missionaries from Australia first began, and ends with the creation of stakes and the dedication of the Temple in Hamilton in 1958. Primarily, she tells the story of the conversion of Māori that began in 1882 and resulted in an essentially Māori community of Latter day Saints in New Zealand.

While I have praised Tiki and Temple,5 I have also demonstrated that Newton has little grasp of Māori tikanga (culture). However, she warns her readers: “as an Australian, I am vulnerable to errors of fact and interpretation in both New Zealand and American history, and especially in Maori culture” (T&T, xiv). She also expresses her “hope that one day a Maori historian will produce a scholarly history of Mormonism in New Zealand that will remedy any omissions and defects in both my works. I also hope to see additional work done with the hundreds of [Page 181]stories of New Zealand Saints, both Maori and Pakeha,6 that are still waiting to be told” (T&T, xiv). Some of this additional work is beginning to be published.7 In Tiki and Temple she says that she hoped she had been able to “convey a sense of the faith, courage, and dedication of the North American missionaries, and the corresponding faith, courage and dedication of their converts, whether Maori or Pakeha. It features the stories of pioneers of the Church in New Zealand, some of whom are otherwise uncelebrated” (T&T, viii).

Two years after Tiki and Temple was published, the bulk of her 1998 thesis was published as Mormon and Maori. In both these works she claims there has been much Māori/LDS missionary mythmaking as well as connivance in fabricating miracle stories. In addition, she claims that “American Mormon cultural imperialism” has required Māori Saints to abandon large portions of their culture. Hence, Marjorie Newton asserts in both her thesis and in Mormon and Maori, “The LDS Church’s success in New Zealand was not achieved without cost to the culture and traditional way of life (Maoritanga) of its Maori converts” (MNZ, v;  M&M, xii).

In an effort to discover the source of her agenda, I have consulted all of Marjorie Newton’s publications.8 She has mastered library and archival research, and she is adept at telling a good story. When coupled with her truly remarkable tenacity, this explains her impressive publishing career. Why has she sought to challenge the traditional Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative in 1998 and then in 2014, while her Tiki and Temple [Page 182]was faith-affirming? This constitutes a puzzle I have sought to solve by looking carefully at everything she has published.

Clues to solving this puzzle are found in a remark in Mormon and Maori about Tiki and Temple:

That book, addressed primarily to a Latter-day Saint audience, was honored by the Mormon History Association with its Best International Book Award for 2012. However, it does not deal with deeper or more scholarly issues. Mormon and Maori was originally written as a Ph.D. thesis (dissertation) for the School of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney and is accordingly a more objective and more academic examination of the interaction of Mormonism and Maoritanga. (M&M, vii, emphasis added)

In Tiki and Temple, she indicates, she “does not attempt to address the recent scientific debate over Maori origins or current LDS teachings on the subject, but rather explains what the Mormon missionaries believed and taught in their own day and how those teachings resonated with their Maori converts” (T&T, xiv). This appears to be her own justification for publishing both a faith-affirming account of Māori Latter-day Saints and also a “more objective and more academic” account in which she challenges the traditional Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative as “faithful history,” fashioned by “Mormon apologists,” and hence mythical, fictitious and false.

Māori Saints and Mormon Cultural Imperialism

Newton correctly claims that “many Maori today, including stalwart Church members, want their culture to survive and feel that it exemplifies true Christian principles — not just the outward symbols displayed for tourists, but the deepest Maori values” (M&M, 180), some of which she mentions. However, the “deepest Maori values” constitute what Māori scholars tend to call tikanga — that is, the traditional “right” or “correct” ways of living,9 and not māoritanga, a word that tends to identify the ordinary or usual way things actually are, since the word māori means “ordinary,” or “usual.” A century back, māoritanga began to mean “culture” in the sense of the usual way Māori behave. Colonization radically challenged and also eroded Māori tikanga.

In her concluding remarks in Mormon and Maori, Newton opines that “for a small minority” of Māori Saints, “the costs of being a Maori [Page 183]Mormon may be too high” (M&M, 180). Why? In her thesis she claims that: “The Mormon Church still speaks with an American voice in its foreign missions and stakes … Although the Mormon Church may not demand ‘cultural suicide’ from its converts, New Zealand Mormons, in common with all members of the international LDS Church, are implicitly expected to commit what Rana Kabbani termed ‘cultural treason’ if they wish to identify fully with Mormonism” (MNZ, 353).

At the end of her thesis she highlights issues with American cultural imperialism, a crucial version of which is “Mormon cultural imperialism” (MNZ, 316–56). She clearly has a dim view of the impact of American culture outside of the United States, an example of which is the following:

What remains to be seen is how much the present blurring of cultural differences in the industrialized world will trivialize cultural tensions; if American “pop” culture, variously referred to as “Coca-colonization” or the “McDonald’s culture,” continues to conquer the world at its present pace, preservation of Maoritanga or any other culture may become an academic question. (MNZ, 355.)

My own review of all 29 of Newton’s publications suggests that it is not individual Americans, some of whom she knows and likes, who ground her concern about “cultural conflict.” Instead, she seems deeply concerned about the enormous social and economic changes that have, especially since WW II, opened large parts of the world to a mixing and blending of cultures. Additionally, she is certain that an alien American church has increasingly insisted that Māori pay a high cultural price if they desire to be faithful Latter-day Saints.

However, in the penultimate paragraph in Mormon and Maori, she grants that most Saints do not see it her way:

Nevertheless, despite the problematical issues described in this book, the Mormon Church has grown steadily in New Zealand in both numbers and status until it now occupies a respectable place in New Zealand society … While there are many thousands of recent converts, there is also a considerable base of multi-generation Maori families strengthening the LDS Church in New Zealand. Most find spiritual satisfaction and happiness in Church attendance, participation in Church programs, and the Mormon way of life (M&M, 181).

She adds the following lament: “Most New Zealand Mormons, both Maori and Pakeha, accept Church teachings unquestionably and remain untouched by [Page 184]deeper or more difficult issues” (M&M, 181) in both her thesis and in Mormon and Maori. I will address these difficult issues she refers to later.

Newton’s Agenda

In her thesis, Newton focuses on what she calls “cultural conflict” between Māori ways and what was brought to them by American Saints. There is little or none of this in Tiki and Temple, but it is a major focus of Mormon and Maori. In its Preface she insists that

never before have their leaders and missionaries faced the problems associated with socialising converts from such a wide spectrum of cultures. Resurgent nationalism and indigenisation philosophy in many nations also pose problems for Mormon leaders, and recent attempts to strip the LDS Church of its American cultural overtones have been only partially successful. Thus, the history of Mormonism’s impact on its Maori converts and their culture is surprisingly relevant to the wider Church today (M&M, xi.)

Concern about Mormon cultural imperialism thus seems to be the key to both her thesis and Mormon and Maori. I therefore sought signs of this concern — and hence her agenda10 — in what she published on Latter-day Saints in Australia beginning in 1984. This led to “A Retrospective Review,” the published version of her 1986 MA thesis. I sought signs of her concern about “Mormon cultural imperialism” in what she published about the Church of Jesus Christ in Australia. There are some signs of this agenda, though fewer than in her 1998 PhD thesis.

What I have also discovered is that when Newton tells the truly heroic story of the long, very difficult struggle to bring the Church of Jesus Christ to Australia and then later to New Zealand, there is no sign of her concern about a clash between American and native Australian and New Zealand cultures. In her excellent essays on Australian Latter day Saints (see items 1, 4, 5, 9, 15, 21, and 23 in the Appendix), there are no signs of concern about Mormon cultural imperialism. However, in several other essays on the Church of Jesus Christ in Australia (see items 3, 6, 7, 8, and 13 in the Appendix, below) there is an overt concern about cultural conflict.

[Page 185]The difference might be either her intended audience or the venue in which she sought to publish. The cultural imperialism about which she complains only seems to rise to the fore when she is discussing the sudden expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ in Australia that began in the decade after WW II. However, concern about cultural conflict becomes dominant when she discusses the faith of Māori Saints.

Some Bungling

In Mormon and Maori and in her thesis, she grants that faithful Māori Latter-day Saints are not troubled by what she pictures as the increasingly nefarious impact of Mormon American cultural imperialism. Hence, she hopes that what she calls “those fringe-dwelling New Zealand Latter-day Saints,”11 Pākeha or Māori, who question what they see as Mormon cultural imperialism might ponder this conclusion: “It is only possible … to travel in one direction … Any possibility of return has been preempted by the journey itself'” (MNZ, 356; M&M, 181).

Newton uses this quote from a scholar speaking of another time and place and people. It is taken out of context from a book by Anthony Pagden. I will provide the context. Pagden is describing the opinions of Denis Diderot (1713–1784), a French Huguenot and hence a staunch Calvinist, who was briefly a Protestant missionary in Brazil.12 The full passage, with the language quoted by Newton in italics, follows:

Fluid and ultimately porous though Diderot’s cultures may have been, they were also thought of as integral and discrete. It is only possible, as we have seen, to travel in one direction. As with Lery’s Norman translators, any possibility of return has been pre-empted by the journey itself. At best he (or she) who has undergone the trial of travel will be condemned, like Gulliver, to perpetual isolation from those who had once been his fellows. (Pagden, 172)

Pagden’s point seems to be that the difficult experiences of the first Europeans to encounter the indigenous peoples in America and the Pacific led to a personal “trial by travel,” which included getting there [Page 186](and then getting back home again) and also communicating what they had experienced to others.

Writers like Diderot came to believe that cultures, though porous, are not commensurable, which they also believed “was underpinned by the concept of providential order in which all humans should be in harmony with nature” (Pagden, 172). This may also entail the assumption that God does not want a fluid mixing of cultures. Pagden also indicates that Johann Gottfried Herder, a German nationalist, thought that “religion” might somehow “unite all peoples” (Pagden, 172).

Why focus on Newton’s concluding paragraph? It illustrates the problem she has when she shifts from narrations, which she does remarkably well (see the Appendix items 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, and 28), to analyses and arguments, which she does not, in either her PhD thesis or Mormon and Maori. She is very skilled at archival research, and she can tell a good story, but she becomes unreliable when she speculates about abstractions like “cultural conflict.”

A Passion to Publish; Hitting Some Snags

When Newton’s PhD thesis was approved in February 1998, the Institute for Polynesian Studies, which published her Southern Cross Saints,13 was no longer publishing books. She had to seek a publisher interested in publishing a book challenging key elements in the Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative, suggesting that “Mormon cultural imperialism” was harming Māori Saints and making claims about Māori/Mormon mythmaking.

She sought the assistance of the Pacific Area President at the time, Elder Bruce Hafen.14 He suggested that she approach Ron Esplin, then director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute.15 As a favor to Elder Hafen, Esplin assigned Richard Jensen to have a look at her thesis, which then underwent peer review. Newton was urged to turn the first two chapters of her thesis (MNZ, 1–84) into a narrative history of the faith of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand, which she immediately did. Her [Page 187]510-page first draft then underwent peer review and was rejected for publication. She was then more strongly urged to fashion an accurate account of the faith of Māori Saints, which was published more than a decade later as Tiki and Temple.

Newton explains how she came to write Tiki and Temple in the following way:

My completed dissertation,16 entitled “Mormonism in New Zealand: A Historical Analysis”17 was to be published by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at Brigham Young University, Provo. When it was suggested that I should write a chronological history of the New Zealand Mission first, publication of the dissertation was delayed until the manuscript of Tiki and Temple was completed. Both books were still in the early stages of copy-editing when the institute was closed in 2005. (M&M, xiii)

She describes Tiki and Temple as the “second of my studies of the Latter-day Saints in New Zealand” (T&T, xiv), even though it was published two years prior to Mormon and Maori. That book represented the ideological core of her more objective doctoral thesis, “Mormonism in New Zealand: A Historical Appraisal,” which was written for the Religious Studies Department18 of the University of Sydney (1998, forthcoming from Greg Kofford Books) (T&T, xiv).

Confusion over Hagoth

In Mormon and Maori, Newton advances what she believes is the primary reason why some Māori, beginning in 1882, rapidly became faithful Latter-day Saints:

[Page 188]Undoubtedly the Mormon doctrine that had the greatest impact on Maori conversion and that underlay most other reasons for the appeal of the Mormon message for Maori, was the belief that Polynesians are descendants of the expatriate Israelites of the Book of Mormon and are therefore eligible for the redemptive blessings promised to scattered Israel. (M&M, 12)

I consider it a “red flag” when I see words like undoubtedly begin what should be an inductive argument intended to yield a conclusion. Newton provides no textual evidence to support her assertion about what is presumably beyond doubt. Instead, she claims that LDS missionaries believed that “Book of Mormon prophecies … would be fulfilled, and the Lamanites on the isles of the sea, like those in the Americas, would be regenerated” (M&M, 12, emphasis supplied). However, what some LDS missionaries may have believed is not necessarily evidence for her opinion about what had “the greatest impact on Maori conversion.”

She introduces, in the next paragraph, what she claims is a widespread belief that the Māori are the very remote descendants of Hagoth (M&M, 13). I must stress that Hagoth, who is mentioned briefly in Alma 63:5–8, was a Nephite shipbuilder and mariner — both he and his associates are specifically said to be Nephites; they are not Lamanites. In addition, Hagoth, we are told, built an “exceedingly large ship … and launched it forth into the west sea” (v5), and “many Nephites … did enter therein … and took their course northward” (v6). “This man built other ships” (v7). “And … one other ship also did sail forth” (v8). Newton states: “It was upon the basis of this fragmentary Book of Mormon story [in Alma 63:5–8] that Mormon missionaries found success among the Maori” (M&M 13).

She also claims that a “prior widespread acceptance by Maori of Christian speculation about their Israelitish origin provided a fertile field in which the Mormon missionary message flourished” (M&M, 13). There was, in fact, some Pākeha (European) speculation about the Māori being a remnant of Israel. Māori also tended to see their own very dim situation resulting from the ravages of colonial intrusion explained in stories found in the Old Testament, which had been made available to them by Christian missionaries. She then asserts that,

Although many Mormons (including many Maori Mormons) think that the LDS Church is unique in its belief that Polynesians are related to Native Americans and that both are remnants of Israel, such beliefs were neither new nor unique when the Book of Mormon was published in 1830. (M&M, 12–13)

[Page 189]However, she neglects to mention that Pākeha speculation about the Māori being a very remote remnant of ancient Israel did not link them with any indigenous peoples in America. Instead, the belief that the Māori are somehow linked to America is a unique Latter-day Saint belief, rooted in the idea that they are at least partly the decendents of Nephite mariners mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

At least 25 times in the first chapter of Mormon and Maori, when Newton refers to Hagoth, she identifies him and his associates as Lamanites, even though twice she correctly identifies Hagoth and those mariners as Nephites (M&M, 12, 32). She seems to ignore the fact that Hagoth was Nephite in her argument that, by teaching the Māori that they were Lamanites, LDS missionaries clashed with what she calls maoritanga, and thereby challenged both Māori traditions about their own origins as well as recent secular speculation about such matters.

Wrongly Insisting on “Lamanite Descent”

Mormon and Maori ends with a chapter entitled “Mormon and Maori?” (M&M, 149–81). The chapter title is an interrogative that signals that there is a radical tension between being a Latter-day Saint and being a Māori. However, she grants that

for the majority of today’s Maori Latter-day Saints, many of whom are third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation descendants of early Maori converts who accepted the Mormon gospel because of this teaching, Lamanite descent is still a fundamental element of their self-identification. (M&M, 180, emphasis supplied)

The fact is that Māori Latter-day Saints actually both venerate and read the Book of Mormon. She knows this is the case, since she quotes Grant Underwood as follows:

To this day, Maori Latter-day Saints cherish the Book of Mormon as their story, the account of their people in distant antiquity before they sailed their waka (canoes) to Aotearoa. The American missionaries may have carried it to them and the American Pakeha Joseph Smith may have translated it, but for well over a century it has been read as the story of their ancestors. (M&M, 180)19

The Book of Mormon was read by the older Māori I knew in 1950–1952 as “their story” in the sense that it was a tribal history [Page 190]whose  narrative was very much like their own; they had long been and still unfortunately were much like the people described in the Book of Mormon. They knew and understood its contents better than any LDS missionary,20 including myself. When I encountered Māori in 1950, they were not pious stuffed-shirts; even though they knew they were of Nephite descent, they would say that, much like naughty missionaries, they sometimes misbehaved like Lamanites. They were often adept at seeing how stories and prophetic teaching were woven together and then how those teachings applied to their own tribal identities.

Why would Māori, for whom the Book of Mormon is “their book,” incorrectly see themselves as having “Lamanite descent” when there is exactly nothing in that book to justify such a belief? Gina Colvin, who was raised as a Latter-day Saint but who has now become an Anglican, is the only Māori of whom I am aware who muddles Hagoth with the Lamanites.21 However, she could merely be following Newton’s lead on this matter.

Confused by the Debate over DNA

Why make those Nephite mariners who sailed away into the “west sea” into Lamanites, when the language found in Alma 36 mentions only Nephites? Newton seems to insist on the Māori being Lamanites because doing so fits her own misunderstanding of the recent debate over DNA and the Book of Mormon. Much of this controversy was advanced by two former Latter-day Saints, neither of whom are population geneticists.22 Newton appears to use the opinions of the Australian “molecular biologist and ex-Mormon Simon Southerton” (M&M, 27) to justify rejecting her own false idea that Māori believe that they are Lamanites, which is [Page 191]scattered around two chapters in Mormon and Maori. In addition, she may not realize that it is a mistake to take seriously Simon Southerton’s polemic about the Book of Mormon (M&M, 27, 31, 178–79). Finally, the Book of Mormon provides the correct answer to her question: “Nephites or Lamanites?” (M&M, 32–33),23 which she then ignores.

Newton claims that “many Mormon apologists” fashioned a Mesoamerican limited geography for the Book of Mormon as a result of DNA studies (see M&M, 27–28). The fact is that John Sorenson (and others) were advocating a Mesoamerican (and hence a limited) geography for the Book of Mormon long before the debate over DNA began. She does not seem to know that the argument for both a limited geography and a Mesoamerican location for the events depicted in the Book of Mormon flowed from very careful attention to the geographical clues in the Book of Mormon. This led to what John Clark called an “internal map,” which turned out to be consonant with a portion of Mesoamerica.24

In this same section of Mormon and Maori, Newton indicates that “orthodox Mormons are still expected to subscribe to the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. ‘On this we draw a line in the sand,’ stated Mormon Apostle Jeffrey Holland in 1994” (M&M, 33). Then she adds the following:

Tied to acceptance of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is the uncanonised Mormon belief about Polynesian origins. The recent scholarly debate over conclusions reached by scientists researching the DNA of Native Americans and Polynesians — that they are unrelated — has added another layer to the unquestioning faith required of those Maori Mormons aware of the arguments and counter-arguments presented. (M&M, 33)25

Newton argues that belief in literal descent from Nephites adds another “layer of unquestioning faith required of Maori Saints.” Having to “subscribe to the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon” is already [Page 192]presumably a sufficient burden. Removing this additional burden would thus be a blessing to Māori and other Polynesian and Native American Saints, if indeed it has been disproved by Southerton and Murphy.

Her argument in the first chapter of Mormon and Maori seems to be that, by allowing the publication of an essay by John Sorenson in 1984 in which he sets out a limited geography,26 the Brethren have thereby set in place the grounds for rejecting the belief that the Māori are in any way children of Lehi. Hence it is both foolish and unnecessary for the Brethren to continue to urge Māori Saints to seek the prophetic promises available to Lehi’s remote descendants. She also insists that Māori were badly misled when they were identified as “children of Lehi” in their Temple dedication prayer.

The flatly false assertion that DNA studies by Southerton and Murphy led John Sorenson to fashion a limited geography for the Book of Mormon leads to the following:

Coupled with increasing scientific evidence of multiple migrations to America, and continuing lack of archaeological and linguistic evidence for the existence of Book of Mormon peoples in the Americas, many Mormon apologists began to re-examine traditional assumptions about the Book of Mormon.” (M&M, 27)

However, increasing “evidence of multiple migrations to America” only enhances the plausibility of the three migrations to America described in the Book of Mormon.

What Newton described in 2012 as the “recent scientific debate over Maori origins or current LDS teachings on the subject” (T&T, xiv) thus turns out to be the debate over DNA and the Book of Mormon. Without being aware of what Latter-day Saint geneticists have published about population genetics and the Book of Mormon, she insists that the Brethren ought to officially jettison any idea that remote descendants of Lehites exist outside a limited area in Mesoamerica. She makes this claim based on what she believes is a false belief about Māori origins, supported by DNA evidence, but she misunderstands what Mormon apologists have written in response about DNA and the Book of Mormon.

Despite her comments about Book of Mormon historicity, she does not deny that there were Lehites. Instead, she seems to assume that Southerton has only proven that remote descendants of Lehi cannot now be outside the limited area of Mesoamerica. This false assumption seems to be why she takes exception with John Sorenson’s argument for [Page 193]a limited geography (see M&M, 27–2 8) with what she sees as official approval and also for a Mesoamerican location of the bulk of the events depicted in the Book of Mormon.

She insists that because the Brethren seemingly approved John Sorenson’s limited geography, they now can and should officially jettison the idea that there are any remote descendants of Lehites outside of a limited area in Mesoamerica. She wrongly assumes that no Lehites could ever have traveled outside of the area where they initially lived. In addition, she does not address the fact that Southerton’s attack was on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon and hence was not an argument that confines Lehites and their remote ancestors to a limited area. She also argues that the belief that some of the remote ancestors of the Māori (and other Polynesians) were Nephite mariners would be easy to officially jettison because it never has been canonized. However, it is texts that are canonized, not interpretations of texts.

Newton attempts to respond to Southerton’s claim “that LDS leaders, faced with unanswerable scientific data about Native American and Polynesian origins, are trapped in a situation in which they cannot make fundamental doctrinal changes without damaging the faith of millions of adherents” (M&M, 178). She does so by asserting that “[a]ccepting a changed perspective on their origins may be difficult, but not devastating, for the majority of Maori Saints” (M&M, 180). She then mentions that some past practices, like taking the sacrament emblems only with the right hand, have been abandoned without the Saints even noticing (M&M, 178–79).

She also claims that a “formal retreat” from the teachings that some of the ancestors of the Māori were Lamanites through Hagoth, “would in no wise mean that Maori were not Israelites in the eyes of the Mormon Church” (M&M, 180). However, in her own assessment of the early Pākeha speculation about Māori origins, she debunks the belief that the Māori could actually be a very remote remnant of ancient Israel (see M&M, 13–15).

Trashing the Māori Latter-day Saint Historical Narrative

In Tiki and Temple, Newton relies on textual sources that include accounts of divine manifestations to Māori. For instance, she relies heavily on the remarkable contemporary account written by William Bromley,27 who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, in December 1880 to serve as [Page 194]Australasian Mission President. He had been instructed by the Brethren to take the gospel to the Māori. He struggled to do this. Some of his very few fellow missionaries made some unwise and even bizarre efforts to reach and teach the Māori, which Newton describes in detail, often following Bromley’s diary.

These efforts all failed, until on 5 April 1881, Bromley set apart William McDonnel, who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ in Auckland after he arrived in New Zealand from Ireland, to be a missionary to the Māori. He also blessed McDonnel to learn the Māori language, which he immediately began to do.28 On 18 October 1881, McDonnel baptized Ngataki, who was the first Māori to join the Church in New Zealand.29 However, the real breakthrough came later. On 17 December 1882, Thomas Levis Cox30 who was born in England in 1845 and who, with his family, had moved to New Zealand where he became a Latter-day Saint, invited Bromley to spend Christmas with him in Cambridge, which is 91 miles from Auckland and 14 miles south of Hamilton.

Bromley indicates that, as a result of didactic dreams, McDonnel also made the journey to Cambridge for Christmas. McDonnel arrived unexpectedly at the Cox residence before breakfast on 24 December. After breakfast they set out to contact some Māori who were camped near Cambridge.31 Later that day they met Hare Teimana, who desired a blessing for his very ill daughter, which was given. Teimana also told McDonnel that he had been visited by the Apostle Peter, who was dressed in white clothing, and who showed him the three Latter-day Saints—that is, Bromley, Cox and McDonnel—in a vision, so that he recognized them as agents with Apostolic authority.32 Hare Teimana, his wife, and one other adult were baptized in the Waikato river on Christmas Day, 1882.

McDonnel then returned to Auckland, but Bromley soon summoned him back to Cambridge to interpret for other Māori anxious to hear the [Page 195]LDS missionary message, which took place on Sunday, 31 December 1882. On the following day, six more baptisms took place. These and additional conversions led to the establishment of the first Māori LDS branch, which was located in tiny Waotu, 18 miles south of Cambridge.

One cannot fashion even a murky narrative of the very first conversions of Māori to the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand without mentioning the encounter of Bromley, Cox, and McDonnel, who served as translator with Hare Teimana, and those subsequent baptisms. However, in her thesis, Marjorie Newton made some critical factual errors. For instance, in her thesis, she located those crucial events at least once in Huntly (MNZ, 15), which is 35 miles north of Cambridge, but also on the Waikato River. She also missed other details of that important event.

In the section entitled “The First Maori Branch” in “Newton’s Unpublished Manuscript,” she wrote the following:

In August 1882, Thomas and Hannah Cox, English emigrants who joined the Mormon Church in Auckland in 1880, moved to Cambridge in the Waikato, where Thomas set up business as a boot and shoemaker. Here they became friendly with the local Maori tribe. Seeing an opportunity, they invited President Bromley to spend Christmas with them. On Christmas Eve, a Sunday, they were joined by McDonnel, and the three men spent the evening preaching to a group of Maori. Later that evening, after discussing Mormon doctrine in a chief’s home, they laid hands on and blessed his sick daughter who quickly recovered. On Christmas Day in 1882, the Maori chief Hare Teimana, his wife Pare and another Maori, possibly Hare Katere (Harry Carter) were baptized in the nearby river. (“Chapter 2 – 1878–1 887,” 29.)

Some of the more problematic details in this paragraph include the following:

  • Newton presents no evidence that Teimana was a Māori “chief.”
  • Neither Bromley nor Cox could understand Māori. Without McDonnel, they could have only passed out some leaflets that McDonnel had previously managed to have translated into Māori.
  • [Page 196]On 24 December 1882, McDonnel arrived at the Cox home before breakfast, after which they set out to contact Māori camped near Cambridge.33
  • On 24 December 1882, those three fellows did not discuss “Mormon doctrine” with Teimana. Instead, he told McDonnel how he had come to recognize them as authorized agents for the Apostle Peter, and asked them to bless his very ill daughter — she had not eaten in days — which they did.
  • On 25 December 1882 (Christmas Day), when the three Latter day Saints visited Teimana again, his daughter was recovering nicely — she had even eaten some strawberries. Then McDonnel explained to Teimana, his wife and probably Hare Te Katere (Harry Carter) what being baptized entailed, prior to that being done that evening in the Waikato River. Other interested Māori observed the baptism.

After quoting Bromley’s descriptions of the baptism of Teimana, his wife and perhaps Hare Te Katere in the Waikato River, Newton indicates that “McDonnel’s version of the story portrayed his visit to Cambridge and subsequent teaching of the chief and his family solely as the result of inspiration and the happenings of one day” (“Chapter 2 — 1878–1887,” 30). She then argues that “[t]he Cox family deserves more credit for the first successful introduction of the Restored Gospel to the Maori people” (“Chapter 2 — 1878–1887,” 31). Her reason for celebrating Thomas and Hannah Cox’s role in the first “successful introduction of the Restored Gospel to the Maori people” is that Samuel Cox (1871–1967), who was the oldest son of Thomas and Hannah Cox, and presumably “a witness to the events” (when he was barely eleven), wrote a letter in 1957 in which he claimed that his father “had become very friendly with the three Maori” who were baptized on Christmas Day in 1882. They were, he claimed, “already prepared for and waiting for baptism when Bromley and McDonnel arrived [Page 197]in Cambridge” (“Chapter 2 —1878–1887,” 30).34 This letter was written 75 years after the events that took place in December 1882.35

In her PhD thesis, she tells a slightly different version of this important story. She begins by mentioning that Bromley “set apart” McDonnel “to take the Mormon message to the Maori,” after which he eventually baptized Ngataki (MNZ, 15), then writes:

Fifteen months later, Bromley and McDonnel baptized several Maori near Huntly. McDonnel’s story of the December 1882 visit there implies that he was suddenly inspired to follow the mission president, who was visiting Church members Thomas and Hannah Cox in the Waikato town; that, meeting the Maori who had been prepared by a vision, he and Bromley taught them the gospel that evening (24 December) and baptized the first of them on Christmas Day. (MNZ, 15, emphasis supplied)

Then Newton adds that Samuel Cox “later stated that his father had become very friendly with the local Maori tribe and that the three baptized were already prepared and waiting when Bromley and McDonnel arrived in Cambridge” (“Chapter 2 — 1878–1887,” 30). In this account, Newton uses this letter, written 75 years after the events it presumably describes, to trump Bromley’s detailed contemporary diary and the later reminiscences of William McDonnel and Thomas Cox, Samuel’s father.

A Step Forward

Those who were then at the Smith Institute must be praised for insisting that Marjorie Newton produce the much more accurate narrative history that was eventually published as Tiki and Temple. In this book she correctly indicates that Māori Saints were prepared by their own prophets for their initial encounters with the message of Latter-day Saint missionaries. She even included a slightly more accurate version of the story about Hare Teimana’s encounter with (or dream of) the Apostle Peter (T&T, 32–33). She explains that Māori “prophets” played a role in generating a Māori community of Saints (see T&T, 23–2 4, 37, 41–4 3). [Page 198]However, in her first attempt to fashion a narrative account of the faith of Māori Saints, she never mentions Arama Toiroa, Paora Potangaroa, or other Māori seers.

Downplaying Specific Prophecies

In her thesis, Newton addresses the claim that Mormons cite Māori prophecies as evidence of the divine preparation of the Māori people. She claims that the prophecies merely foretold a rather vague, generalized list of items and insists that Mormon apologists have not confronted the fact that “few of these items are characteristic of Mormonism” (MNZ, 275). She casually mentions that the true messengers “would be recognized because they would pray with their arms raised to the square” (M&M, 3; cf. MNZ, 275). What she does not indicate is that in Paora Potangaroa’s He Kawenata,36 which he dictated in 1881, he specifically mentions that the true messengers would pray with their right arms to the square. When those Latter-day Saint missionaries who turned up in the Wairarapa in 1883 prayed with their right arms raised to the square, they were immediately recognized as true messengers from God. (During my life, as a young boy, this mode of prayer was not uncommon for blessing the emblems of the sacrament.)

The prophetic proclamation by Arama Toiroa in 1830 was that the true messengers would raise both arms over their heads when they prayed, which is how Alma Greenwood, Ira Hinckley, and William Stewart prayed at Korongata/Bridge Pa where some who were familiar with Toiroa’s prophecies then lived. This, and several other very distinctive behaviors, quickly led to the conversion of those at Korongata and then elsewhere among those familiar with Toiroa’s words.

Newton uses the expression, “variously foretold,” in relation to these prophecies, which obscures the fact that different Māori seers provided very specific indications that the true messengers had arrived for their own people. It was not a “one size fits all” sort of thing.37 She has jumbled together several proclamations of Māori Matakite in an effort to dismiss the role they played in the conversion of Māori Saints. This she did in both her theses with essentially the same language. However, the [Page 199]specific details of the account are essential in assessing what Professor Robert Joseph identifies as the “Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative.”38

Failure to Fully Consider Alternative Viewpoints

I have previously called attention to an essay by Robert Joseph,39 a Latter- day Saint scholar who set out significant new details about those whom Latter-day Saints, including Marjorie Newton, have called “prophets,” but whom the Māori call Matakite (seers). They played a crucial role in preparing some Māori iwi (tribes) for Latter- day Saint missionaries and their message.40 Newton is fully aware of Professor Joseph’s essay, the contents of which challenge her writings in Chapter 8 of her thesis (MNZ, 271–77) and in the beginning of Mormon and Maori (M&M, 2–3).

In fact, in Mormon and Maori, Newton cites Professor Joseph’s essay in her bibliography (M&M, 200) and then quotes portions of the opening paragraph of his essay, where she indicates that he “has summarized some … often overlooked consequences of the imbalance resulting from the introduction of Western culture into colonial New Zealand” (M&M, 159).

Professor Joseph began his essay with a Māori prophecy. His English translation read as follows:

Behind the tattooed face, a stranger stands,
He will inherit the world — he is white.41

What followed was a detailed account of some of the Māori seers who played a crucial role in the story of the faith of Māori Saints. Newton, however, does not seem to be even aware of the names of some of these Māori matakite. In addition, though she quotes language out of context from Professor Joseph’s essay, she never hints that he provided valuable new information on the Māori seers who opened the way for the Latter-day Saint missionaries and their message.

Instead of engaging Professor Joseph’s evidence and arguments, Newton only quotes portions of the opening paragraph of his essay, where he introduces the actual cultural context in which seers opened the way for Māori to become faithful Latter-day Saints. I will quote the entire paragraph, with the portions she quotes in italics:

[Page 200]According to Ngati Whatu sources, the prophecy above was uttered by their tribal tohunga matakite (seer), Titahi, who foretold the bittersweet arrival of the Pakeha and the subsequent impacts of European contact, which thrust the Māori world view into a state of perilous imbalance as had been prophesied. Land and natural resources loss through unjust wars, confiscations and their legal machinations wreaked havoc on the relationship between people and the natural environment. The forcible individualisation of land, property and world values in the Native Land Court disturbed the balance between members of kin groups. Introduced diseases and addictive substances — alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea and sugar — decimated tribal populations, and undermined Māori health and well-being. Christianity damaged in many ways the connection between the people and the gods, and the individualistic and economic assumptions of European capitalism and Western liberalism destroyed traditional reciprocity economics, the equilibrium between kin, the physical and metaphysical world, the environment and the fundamental obligations to past, present and future generations.42

None of the relentless, bleak unraveling of the traditional Māori way of life was the work of Latter-day Saint missionaries, or of the quirks of mission presidents or missionaries, or the result of “the inadequacy of LDS Church policies for non-Western indigenous converts” about which Newton complains. The unraveling of the traditional Māori way of life was well on its way when LDS missionaries suddenly found Māori who were prepared for them and their message by their own seers, and in various other stunning ways. Newton tends to ignore, downplay, or explain this away in her presumably “more objective and more academic” thesis and in its published version, but not in Tiki and Temple.

Latter-day Saint missionaries made contact with Māori many years after the radical degradation and decline of their world was in full swing. It was, as Joseph points out, “the bittersweet arrival of the Pakeha” that provided the context for truly remarkable cultural interchange that took place between the Māori and Latter-day Saint missionaries in which both were (and still are) blessed. In the dismal situation in which the Māori found themselves by 1880, with rapid decline well on its way, and a desperate scramble to preserve Māori resources and identity, some were [Page 201]anxious for answers to the evils they faced. Then Māori matakite opened the way for the Latter-day Saint message. What those missionaries offered, among other things, was a genuine revival of Māori moral discipline. Faithful Saints were thereby shielded from the very attractive but also soul-destroying beliefs, practices, vices, and addictions made available by their British colonizers. These base behaviors even now have much of the Māori world teetering on the rim of an abyss. The fact is that faithful Māori Saints, in the face of the growing degradation that many Māori face, have become much better Māori. In addition, Latter- day Saint missionaries who enter their charmed world have also become more solid Saints.

Finally, at the risk of being seen as immodest, I must point out that, in addition to not genuinely engaging the work of those Newton clearly denigrates as “Mormon apologists” (MNZ, 275)—that is, those who advance “the Mormon faithful history interpretation” (M&M, 1) of the grounds and contents of the faith of Māori Saints — she has ignored two of my own essays. The first of these was published in 1998,43 shortly after her PhD thesis was approved; the second was published in 1999, while my wife and I directed the Lorne Street LDS Institute in Auckland, New Zealand.44

Some Concluding Comments

In her thesis, as I have demonstrated, Newton strives to expose the clash between an alien American church and Māori culture; she also opines about the “role of myth in Maori Mormonism” (MNZ, vi). She strives to demythologize the “faithful history” version of the faith of Māori Saints advanced by “Mormon apologists.” Her chapter entitled “Mormon Legends in New Zealand” (M&M, 79–110) is a sustained and also strained effort at debunking what she claims is clumsy, crude embellishment and/ or outright fabrication of accounts of miracles (M&M, 89–107).

She describes what she labels “three legends” that “provide classic case studies of the way religious myths grow, develop, and become entrenched” (M&M, 79). Then, under the chapter subheading “Implications for the Church,” she asks: “What, then, can be made of an apostle, later president of the LDS Church” (she has in mind Elder David O. McKay) “promoting a story that was, it appears, at worst fabricated, at best exaggerated?” (M&M, 107). Her conclusion is that the stories she strives to debunk in Chapter 3 of Mormon and Maori “fit the category of ‘myth’ rather than history” (M&M, 110). This is also, [Page 202]as I have demonstrated, her “objective” stance on Māori Saints being providentially prepared for the Church of Jesus Christ by their own seers.

Newton ends her assessment of what she considers mythmaking by quoting what Eric J. Sharpe, the religious studies professor who supervised her thesis, once said on a radio station about a famous Australian historian with whom he strongly disagreed on political issues: “history written for propaganda purposes … is bad history. There is no easier way to bear false witness than to misrepresent those who are no longer able to defend themselves, merely in order to comfort the true believers” (M&M, 112). This is, of course, the reason that every effort ought to be made to give serious attention to the Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative.

Addendum

In this essay I have not addressed Marjorie Newton’s comments about the Māori Io cult or its close relationship with the initiation that elite Māori men once underwent in a whare wānanga (house of learning). I have previously shown that Tiki and Temple would have been improved by a careful study of what was imparted in those wānanga, since those so initiated were both able to grasp what Latter-day Saint missionaries presented and to assist in their efforts to take their message to other Māori. The reason, of course, is that what they had been taught meshed so well with what they heard from Latter-day Saint missionaries.45

Appendix: Marjorie Newton’s Writings46

1986

  1. “Pioneering the Gospel in Australia,” Ensign (October 1986): 32–41. This series of essays consists of Part One, “New Light on the First Missionaries,” 32–34; Part Two, “Hunted, Fished and Gathered,” 38–35; Part Three, “The First Half of the Twentieth Century,” 38–41.
  2. [Page 203]Latter-day Saints in Bankstown (Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia: privately printed, 1986). This was published by a Committee of Saints in the Bankstown Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Bankstown New South Wales Diamond Jubilee.
  3. “Southern Cross Saints: The Mormon Church in Australia” (MS honors thesis, History Department, University of Sydney, 1986).

1987

  1. “The Gathering of the Australian Saints in the 1850s,” BYU Studies Quarterly 27, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 67–78.

1990

  1. “Rosa Clara: Bravery on the Pacific,” Ensign (August 1990): 54–55.

1991

  1. Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia (Laie, HI: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1991). This is the published version of Newton’s MA thesis (item 3).
  2. “‘Almost Like Us’: The American Socialization of Australian Converts,” Dialogue 24, no. 3 (1991): 9–20.
  3. “Mormonism becomes a Mainline Religion: An Austrailian Viewpoint,” Dialogue 24, no. 4 (Winter 1991): 74–78.

1992

  1. “Father of Joseph’s Daughter: John Murdoch,” Journal of Mormon History 18, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 177–93.
  2. Hero or Traitor: A Biographical Study of Charles Wandell (Independence, Missouri: Independence Press, 1992).

1993

  1. Review of an exhibit called “Come, Let Us Rejoice” (the Relief Society Sesquicentennial Exhibition at the Museum of Church History and Art, Salt Lake City), March 1992–February 1993, in the Journal of Mormon History 19, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 177–80.

1996

  1. “‘Seduced Away’: Early Mormon Documents in Australia,” BYU Studies Quarterly 35, no.3 (1995): 149–90.
  2. “Towards 2000: Mormons in Australia,” Dialogue 29, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 193–206.
  3. “From Tolerance to ‘House Cleaning’: LDS Leadership Response to Maori Marriage Customs, 1890–1990,” Journal of Mormon History 22/2 (Fall 1996): 72–91.

1997

  1. “Australia’s Pioneer Saints,” Ensign (February 1997): 44–51.

[Page 204]1998

  1. “Mormonism in New Zealand: A Historical Appraisal” (PhD thesis, School of Studies of Religion, University of Sydney, 1998).

1999

  1. Review of The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836, in the Journal of Mormon History 25, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 245–48.

2000

  1. Review of New Mormon Studies CD-ROM (by Smith Research Associates, 1998), Journal of Mormon History 26, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 203–205.

2002

  1. “My Family, My Friends, My Faith,” BYU Studies Quarterly 41, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 141–46. (This is a personal essay that won second prize in a BYU Studies contest in 1996.)

2008

  1. “The Gathering of Australian Saints (Mormons) in Australia,” in Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier, Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid L. Nielsen, eds. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2008), 185–97.
  2. “Nineteenth Century Pakeha Mormons in New Zealand,” in Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier, Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid L. Nielsen, eds. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2008) ,228–54.
  3. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Australia,” in Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia, ed. James Jupp (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 375–79.

2012

  1. Tiki and Temple: The Mormons in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012).

2014

  1. Mormon and Maori (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014).
  2. “‘Hope in the Gospel’: Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie (1837–1913),” in Women in the Latter-days, Volume 2: 1837–1913, eds. Richard E. Turley and Brittany Chapman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 196–209.
  3. “Her Very Presence Is a Sermon: Mere Mete Whaanga,” in Women in the Latter-days, Volume 3: 1846–1870, eds. Richard [Page 205]E. Turley and Brittany Chapman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 252–62.
  4. “‘Give of Myself to the End’: Polly Tuawatea Deven Duncan,” Women in the Latter-days, Volume 4: 1871–1900, eds. Richard E. Turley and Brittany Chapman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 82–96 (endnotes at 317–20).

2017

  1. (With Tina Dill), “Matthew Cowley: Beloved Apostle of the Pacific,” Church History, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, May 30, 2017, https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/matthew-cowley-beloved-apostle-of-the-pacific?lang=eng.


1. Marjorie Newton, “Mormonism in New Zealand: A Historical Appraisal” (PhD thesis, School of Studies of Religion, University of Sydney, 1998). Hereafter cited parenthetically as MNZ. When I refer to Newton’s thesis in this essay, I have in mind her 1998 PhD thesis, and not her 1986 MA thesis.
2. Hereafter “the Church of Jesus Christ” or “Latter-day Saints,” depending on context. I retain British spelling in quotations where appropriate.
3. This is a 510-page typed, double-spaced manuscript with no author identification, title page, introduction, or bibliography. It is divided into 15 chapters, each individually paged, and identified only by the dates covered in the chapter. For example, the first chapter is dated 1832–1877, even though there was no LDS proselyting activity in New Zealand until 1854. I will cite only language from “Chapter 2 —1878–1887” of “Newton’s Unpublished Manuscript.”
4. Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012). Hereafter cited parenthetically as T&T.
5. For my affirmative assessment of Tiki and Temple, see Midgley, Journal of Mormon History 40, no. 1 (2014): 253–56; and also Midgley, “Māori Latter day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8 (2014): 45–65.
6. Pākeha is the Māori word for European.
7. See Midgley, “Remembering and Honoring Maori Latter-day Saints,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21 (2016): 275–90. This is a review of Robert Joseph’s essay entitled “Intercultural Exchange, Matakite Maori and the Mormon Church,” in Mana Māori and Christianity, ed. Hugh Morrison, et al. (Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers, 2012), 43–72; and also Selwyn Katene, ed., Turning the Hearts of the Children: Early Mormon Leaders in the Mormon Church (Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Publishers, 2014), which consists of 12 essays on early Māori Latter-day Saints. A second volume was published: Katene, ed., By Their Fruits You Will Know Them: Early Mormon Leaders in the Mormon Church (Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Publishers, 2017), which contains an additional 12 vignettes on early Māori Latter-day Saints. These are similar to some of Newton’s essays (items #5, 25, 26, and 28 in Appendix, below).
8. See the Appendix, below, where I list all her publications. For what I have uncovered concerning the early roots of her publishing agenda, see Midgley, “Marjorie Newton on ‘The Mormons in Australia’ — A Retrospective Review,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 27 (2017): 143–54. Hereafter cited as “A Retrospective Review.”
9. See Cleve Barlow, Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Maori Culture (Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1998).
10. Some people may read the word agenda as being used pejoratively, as somehow implying that I believe Newton has nefarious ulterior motives underlying Mormon and Maori or some of her other writings. It is important to understand that is not the way I use the word in this review, and I specifically decry any such implications.
11. Those Newton labels “fringe-dwelling Latter-day Saints” are those I label “cultural Mormons.”
12. Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993). Henceforth cited parenthetically as Pagden. Pagden is a distinguished professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles.
13. Newton, Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia (Laie: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1991). Southern Cross Saints is the published version of her MA thesis. See items 3 and 6, in the Appendix, below.
14. Nothing suggests that Elder Hafen read Newton’s thesis.
15. Until 2005 the Smith Institute was located at Brigham Young University, when it was absorbed by the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, where attention has been on the Joseph Smith Papers project and very closely related projects.
16. A dissertation in the United States is a thesis in Australia.
17. The actual subtitle of her PhD thesis is “A Historical Appraisal,” and not “analysis.” It is both rather common (and very painful) for authors to garble little details with which they are intimately familiar. An observant reader will note that footnote 2 of Midgley, “A Retrospective Review,” indicates that Newton’s PhD thesis was completed in the History Department at Sydney University. But I also explained how she came to transfer to the School of Studies of Religion, when no one in the history department would encourage or embrace her proposal to write about the faith of Māori Latter-day Saints.
18. Eric J. Sharpe (1933–2000), who supervised Newton’s PhD thesis, was the inaugural professor of religious studies in the School of Studies of Religion at Sydney University, which he founded in 1977. For the relevant details drawn from her own accounts, see Midgley, “A Retrospective Review,” 150.
19. Quoted by Newton from Underwood, “Mormonism, the Maori and Cultural Authenticity,” Journal of Pacific History 35, no. 2 (2000): 140.
20. See Midgley, “A Singular Reading: The Maori and the Book of Mormon,” in Davis Bitton, ed., Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John Sorenson (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient and Mormon Studies, 1998), 245–76. Hereafter cited as “A Singular Reading.” See also Midgley, “A Māori View of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8, no. 1 (1999): 4–11, 77. Hereafter cited as “A Māori View.”
21. See Gina Colvin, “Mormon and Maori by Marjorie Newton,” Journal of Mormon History 42, no. 1 (January 2016): 242–4 6. Colvin states: “In Chapter 1, Newton provides an astute and fearless treatment of the complexities and contradictions associated with the Lamanite/Hagoth mythologies” (242–43). One can excuse Peter Lineham, who is neither a Latter-day Saint nor Māori, for thinking that Māori Saints see themselves as Lamanites. See his essay entitled “The Mormon Message in the Context of Maori Culture,” Journal of Mormon History 17/1 (1981):80–85 (under the heading “The Appeal of the House of Israel Doctrine”).
22. Both Simon Southerton and Thomas W. Murphy are strident and discredited critics of the Church of Jesus Christ.
23. Civility prevented Māori and other Latter-day Saints from pointing out to Elder Spencer Kimball that Hagoth mariners were Nephites.
24. See John E. Clark, “A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies,” Mormon Studies Review 23, no. 1 (2011): 13–43. A version of this essay and the core of Clark’s argument was first published in 1989 and was available nine years prior to the completion of Newton’s thesis and 25 years prior to the publication of Mormon and Maori.
25. Those with faith in God should be always seeking greater understanding, and this seems to me to require questions, the answers to which are available in the “best books” and also by genuine prayer. Hence, Newton’s assertions about “unquestioning faith” seems a bit quirky.
26. See John Sorenson, “Digging into the Book of Mormon,” Ensign (September 1984): 27–37.
27. Bromley’s detailed diaries and other manuscripts have been published as Bromley, None Shall Excel Thee: The Life and Journals of William Michael Bromley, ed., Fred Bromley Hodson (Yorba Linda, CA: privately printed, 1990). Hereafter cited as None Shall Excel Thee.
28. None Shall Excel Thee, 123, 310.
29. Ibid., 147, 311. McDonnel, who was in charge of the graving (dry) dock in Auckland, met Ngataki as part of his work.
30. Thomas Cox had previously been a member of the Auckland Branch, where he constantly quarreled with William McDonnel, who was the branch president. The Cox family shifted to Cambridge, where Thomas Cox hoped to make a living as a bootmaker.
31. None Shall Excel Thee, 293.
32. Ibid.,, 294–95. Some slightly differing, mostly trivial details in this story depend upon whether one follows Bromley’s contemporary account or on the later reminiscence of McDonnel and/or Cox. One should keep in mind that only McDonnel could communicate with Teimana in Māori, Cox could only record later what he remembered McDonnel telling him and Bromley about what Teimana said.
33. These Māori seem to me to have been camped near Cambridge to conduct business with the Maori Land Court. The Crown required Māori, among other things, to register private land ownership of what had previously not been private property in the pre-colonial Māori world. This would explain why the first Māori LDS Branch was in Waotu, which is 18 miles south of Cambridge, since that was where they came from.
34. In “Chapter 2 — 1878–1887,” Newton cites “Samuel Cox, letter to Relief Society Magazine Editors and Association, dated Pocatello, Idaho, 13 March 1957. Typescript copy inserted in the Manuscript History of the Church in New Zealand between 22 June and 13 July 1880” (31n73). This letter was somehow inserted in the Manuscript History between items dated 22 June and 13 July 1880, 17 months prior to the events that took place late in 1882.
35. Craig Foster provided expert assistance in tracking down details about Samuel Cox.
36. Keep in mind that kawenata (covenant, testament) is a loan word from English.
37. If in doubt, then please watch Robert Joseph, “Māori Responses to the Mormon Church — A Commentary,”YouTube video, 1:13:05, posted by The Interpreter Foundation, Aug 8, 2017, http://interpreterfoundation.org/maori-responses-to-the-mormon-church/.
38. Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange,” 51, 58, 62, and 63.
39. Midgley, “Remembering and Honoring,” 279–84.
40. Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange,” 43–72.
41. See Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange,” 43, for the source of this prophecy.
42. Ibid.
43. Midgley, “A Singular Reading,” 245–7 6.
44. Midgley, “A Māori View,” 4–1 1, 77.
45. See Midgley, “Remembering and Honoring,” 286–89. See also my essay entitled “Maori Latter-day Saint Faith,” Interpreter 8 (2014): 57–62, as well as my review of Tiki and Temple in the Journal of Mormon History 40/1 (2014): 253–56.
46. I appreciate Lavina Anderson’s providing me with a copy of “CV– Marjorie Newton,” which brought to my attention three items with which I was not previously familiar. I have also located an essay by Lynda Bakker and Majorie [sic?] Newton, “Temple Crowns in Australia,” Ensign (September 1984): 77–78. Marjorie Newton may have co-authored this item.

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About Louis C. Midgley

Louis Midgley (Ph.D. Brown University) is an emeritus professor of political science at Brigham Young University, where he taught the history of political philosophy, which includes efforts of Christian churchmen and theologians to identify, explain, understand and cope with the evils in this world. Dr. Midgley has therefore had an abiding interest in both dogmatic and systematic theology, and the alternatives to both. His doctoral dissertation was on the religious socialist political ideology of Paul Tillich, a once famous German American Protestant theologian, most famous for his systematic theology which is a radical elaboration of classical theism. Dr. Midgley’s encounter with the writings of Leo Strauss, an influential Jewish philosopher/intellectual historian drew his attention to the radical challenge posed by what is often called modernity to both the wisdom of Jerusalem, which is grounded on divine revelation, and also the contrasting, competing wisdom of Athens, which was fashioned by unaided human reason. Dr. Midgley has an interest in the ways in which communities of faith have responded to the challenges posed by modernity to faith in God grounded on divine special revelation.

26 thoughts on “Marjorie Newton’s Account of the Faith of the Māori Saints: A Critical Appraisal

  1. Pingback: Marjorie Newton’s Account of the Faith of the Māori Saints: A Critical Appraisal - Louis C. Midgley - The Mormonist

  2. I don’t want my casual reference to “Professor Joseph” to become an issue. It has been called to my attention that I should have indicated that Dr Robert Joseph is currently a “Senior Lecturer” in the Faculty of Law at Waikato University. One can get some idea of his publications by consulting his entry to “Mormon Scholars Testify,” which can be accessed at /www.fairmormon.org/testimonies/scholars/robert-joseph. This was posted in April 2010, and includes a list of his publications from 2000 through 2009.

  3. I am pleased to see this review of criticisms of Latter-day Saint work among the Maoris. I read most of this review, but have not read any of Newton’s books. It is always good when error is pointed out and replaced by truth.

    I come from a perspective of loyalty to Elders Matthew Cowley and Glen L. Rudd, two great missionaries to the Maori people and other Polynesians. Elder Rudd spent much of his later life seeking to preserve the memory of Elder Cowley’s dealings with a people they both considered to have great faith, despite weaknesses.

    Elder Rudd was aware that some criticized Elder Cowley (his mission president) for relating stories about faithful works and miracles among the Polynesians. In one document, describing the last days of Elder Cowley, Elder Rudd wrote:

    He had had one severe critic who very unjustly said things about him. This had bothered me much more than him. On two or three occasions, I had asked permission to straighten this person out, but he never would allow that. However, on this last day that we were together for such a long time, he said, “When I’m gone, if you ever hear any more criticism from this individual, you go ahead and straighten it out.” Fortunately, I never heard any more and that problem just dissolved.

    Elder Rudd further commented:

    “President Cowley was a great storyteller. Everything that happened to him was interesting. He could take any little event and make it into a fine story. However, he never exaggerated. He just told excellent details about every wonderful thing that happened, and everything in his life was exciting”

    Elder Rudd was sensitive to unjust criticisms leveled against his beloved leader and friend. The must aggravated I ever saw Elder Rudd get is when I gave him a copy of writings by Richard Poll that discounted Elder Cowley’s stories. He thought Poll’s conclusions foolish. Often, those without much faith of their own impose that limitation on others, and thereby insist others have not experienced what they haven’t.

    Both Cowley and Rudd knew well the weaknesses and sins of all people, including Maoris, but they also knew of the fire of their faith and their ability to repent and improve and and also to work mighty miracles. The Holy Spirit witnessed the truth of Elder Cowley’s stories and that is all that is needed, despite what skeptics might say. I have heard a number of modern church leaders describe the power they felt when personally present at BYU to hear Elder Cowley give his “Miracles” talk.

    Those who accuse Elder Cowley of smearing on the frosting like Elder Dunn did are mistaken.

    Before he died, Elder Cowley received a great spiritual manifestation of some kind, in which it was made known to him when and how he would pass away and that it would be given to him to die as he chose. This is exactly how it happened. Then Elder Rudd died just 2 years ago, last of Elder Cowley’s missionaries.

    • Elder Cowley was a good friend of my father. He came to my own missionary farewell, and later he invited me to speak with him in the last session of the Bountiful Stake conference when I returned home. When I reported to my father that we were only averaging just over two hours a day doing missionary work. He showed my letter to Matt (as we lovingly called him), who was told to inform me that the Brethren understood what missionary work was then like among the Maori, and hence I should not be concerned about the summary made from what he called “lie sheets” because what were were doing was a blessing to us and those we taught and visited.

      My own experience with the Saints in New Zealand has had a profound and lasting impact on me.

      I was also disgusted by Richard Poll’s remarks.

      I did not to Marjorie Newton’s claim that Elder Cowley exaggerated. If she had lived with the Saints in New Zealand she might have not been skeptical of even of the most solid accounts of the manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit among the Saints in New Zealand.

    • “I am pleased to see this review of criticisms of Latter-day Saint work among the Maoris. I read most of this review, but have not read any of Newton’s books. It is always good when error is pointed out and replaced by truth.”

      The above is quite a statement. I appreciate your ‘loyalty’ to Elder Cowley – certainly he is a great man (both on Earth and beyond).

      However, this conversation is improved with informed participants, and the blind rejection of decades of work by a great researcher and LDS (Sister M Newton) without reading even a smidgen of her writing highlights the strong bias towards towing the party line that there is but one narrative of the Polynesian LDS – and it has been told by Brother Midgley.

      • I must now also respond to some of Ryan’s comments. I have not blindly rejected Marjorie Newton’s “decades of research… without reading even a smidgen of her writing. If Ryan will now look at pages 202-205, he will see an “Appendix” entitled “Marjorie Newton’s Writings.” I have assembled what is to this point an exhaustive list of all 28 of her publications. Her friend (and the copy editor of her two book on the faith of Maori Saints) graciously provided me with a copy of Marjorie Newton’s own CV. This made it possible for me to consult all of her publications, in which I include both her MA thesis and her PhD thesis, but not the 510 page unpublished book manuscript, which I had been asked by a potential publisher to review. Having this manuscript in my possession made it possible to track her effort to turn the first two chapters of her PhD thesis, which were a narrative sketch of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand into what eventually was published as Tiki and Temple in 2012.

        I also was asked to review her entire PhD thesis for a potential publisher. They sent me a rough Xerox copy of her thesis. But I also had a look at the very beautiful copy of her thesis that is located at BYU-H through interlibrary loan. And also her 1986 MA thesis, a version of which was published in 1991. This is available in the Church Library in Salt Lake City.

        I will admit that I am inclined to defend the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative. But I have no idea what constitutes what Ryan calls “the party line that there is but one LDS narrative of the Polynesian LDS.” The expert on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Pacific Islands is Lanny Britsch. No one else comes close to what he has written, and hence I do not claim to, as Ryan insists, that “it has been told by Brother Midgley.”

        I am, of course, fully aware that there are competing accounts of the faith of Maori Saints. I have explained elsewhere that it must be faithful Maori who will tell the story of their own faith. It now seems clear that Ryan has either not read, or read my essay above with any care. Nor has he read any of the others available on the Interpreter website. There is always a certain entry price that must be paid to engage in a productive conversation. I would very much enjoy such a conversation.

        • Louis you have misread my comment. My comment was in response to Dennis Horne comment on November 30, 2018 at 10:27 am, which I quoted in my reply hoping that would be clear.

          It is evident to me that you have actually read her work. I do not consider you at all an uninformed participant, especially as you wrote this paper. My remarks were all directed towards Dennis.

          Regards,

  4. Kofford Books, in their effort to promote Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori, have Gina Colvin describe it as “an exemplary scholarly work,” and “a beautifully crafted book,” and as “groundbreaking,” as well as a “substantial historical account.” I am confident that those kinds of remarks pleased both Marjorie, and her publisher. But the blunt truth is that those at Kofford must take much of the blame for any hurt that she may feel as a result of my review. Loyd Ericson and others at Kofford, could have solicited competent assessments and then required the necessary corrections and thereby salvaged at least some of the core of flawed 1998 PhD thesis. Richard Jensen and Ron Esplin at the Smith Institute managed to facilitated Newton’s fine faith-affirming Tiki and Temple by merely insisting on accuracy.

    In addition, one must also keep in mind the host of Maori Latter-day Saints, whose faith in several ways is mocked and trampled in Mormon and Maori. My review was, among other things, an effort to give them a voice. Responding, especially to an older Australian woman Latter-day Saint, tends to violate the governing norms of Maori Saints. Given my own deep debt to Maori Latter-day Saints, that began sixty-eight years ago, I had just had to “let the other side be heard,” to follow a venerable old Latin legal maxim.

    In writing this review, I prayerfully sought to set out the truth in such a way as to reduce as much as possible any hurt I might cause a fellow Saint, while also by striving to protect the faith, both now and in the future, of the community of faithful Maori Saints.

  5. I never fail to be uplifted after reading Elder Rudd’s personal accounts of his experiences with Elder Cowley among the Maoris. I know that he focused on the positive and glossed over the negative, but in this instance that is fine with me.

    I feel edified and lifted and strengthened in my faith and that is a sweet reward in itself.

    I would have loved to meet Elder Cowley, as you did. As it was, I always came away feeling better after being around Elder Rudd. These kinds of people just make you feel good by the choice spirit that radiates from them.

  6. I enjoyed reading some of Marjorie’s work. I don’t think she would be bothered by this review, and hopefully this discussion leads to further research and understanding.

    It is well known among members of the church in the Pacific Area that the phrase ‘don’t’ let the truth get in the way of a good story’ applies to Polynesian culture and folklore – and unfortunately this does at times undercut the reliability of great spiritual experiences, real or otherwise.

    Real spiritual experiences are wonderful as they occur, and need not be frosted with unnecessarily glam. When exaggerated stories are analysed and found wanting, they more than undo any faith building that was initially intended by the embellishments.

    This, I believe, was part of Newton’s message.

    • Newton clearly sees herself as a careful fact-checker; and hence dedicated to debunking myths and tall-tales. She has properly pointed out how some Missionaries have garbled and embellished stories that they only heard second hand. No one should object to efforts to get the stories straight. I insist upon this being done. Hence my review of Mormon and Maori, in which I have demonstrated that both her PhD thesis and its published version are larded with bunk.

      With this in mind, I urge Ryan to read again my own debunking of Newton’s insistence that Maori believe (or have been taught) that they are at least partly the remote descendants of Lamanites, when the story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon is about Nephites. This is just one of dozens of similar and related obvious mistakes.

      I have seen exactly nothing to indicate that Marjorie Newton has an interest in engaging in a conversation with Maori or other Latter-day Saints scholars over her opinions about the faith of Maori Saints. Instead, she has avoided conversations with those who are informed on the Maori understanding of divine things. In addition, she has, as far as I can tell, only been to New Zealand once on a brief “field trip.”

      If Ryan will focus on just one portion of my review essay–the section entitled “Trashing the Maori Latter-day Saint Historical Narrative” (pages 193-197)–he will see how Newton has sought to debunk what he calls “real” or “great spiritual experiences,” which include Maori Seers opening the door for our missionaries and their message. The first of these was the encounter of the Mission President, William Bromley (and his two older Pakeha companions) with Hare Teimana, who recognized them because he had encountered the Apostle Peter who had shown them to him. She does this by relying on a letter written by a kid who as just 11 at the time. That letter was written 75 years after the events on Christmas Day in 1882. Newton actually uses that letter to trump a very detailed contemporary diary and the later reminiscence of the two others present on that occasion. This is a monumental mistake on her part. And it seems to have been driven by the secular religious studies in which she was indoctrinated at the University of Sydney.

      There are, or course, other authors who seek to debunk the faith of Maori Saints. And there are more than merely one way, as Ryan says, to “undercut the reliability of great spiritual experiences.” A very destructive way is by brushing them aside, and/or attempting to explain them away. I have demonstrated that Newton’s intention was from the beginning to debunk the faith of Maori Saints. My essay would have been very much longer if I had analyzed and exposed every instance of botched debunking in Mormon and Maori.

      Finally, what Ryan thinks is “well known among members of the church in the Pacific Area”–that is, what some members of the Church of Jesus Christ in Australia happen to believe, for whatever reason, about “Polynesian culture and folklore” is not a sound way of defending Marjorie Newton’s effort to debunk or brush aside the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative. Why? The opinions of some Australians about Maori (and Pacific Islanders) is likely to be an indication of the own very unfortunate ignorance, as well as even perhaps a nasty bit of bigotry. I urge Ryan to explain his remark. And also which of Newton’s published items he had read.

  7. Mate, due to time constraints my reply is limited.
    You wrote, to me, the following:
    “With this in mind, I urge Ryan to read again my own debunking of Newton’s insistence that Maori believe (or have been taught) that they are at least partly the remote descendants of Lamanites, when the story of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon is about Nephites. This is just one of dozens of similar and related obvious mistakes.”
    Firstly, it is very disingenuous to suggest that Polynesians did not believe (some still do today) that they were descendants of Hagoth. Further, to claim this was not a factor in some conversions, both to the waters of baptism and then as a hook to remain in the faith, is unfounded. I still have in my possession printed material that I was given as a missionary from a missionary from New Zealand that had a whole lesson about this correlation to Hagoth. I kept it for reference, but did not once believe it. I am surprised you are not aware of it. My own experience is that many Polynesians and other members of the church in the Asia Pacific did believe this (and some still do).
    The fact that you can find a Wikipedia entry for Hagoth that discusses this very point demonstrates there certainly was and is among many Polynesians the belief that they descended from Hagoth. It is undeniable. This might be surprising for someone on the other side of the world to appreciate, but this is common knowledge for Australian/Pacific Island Members. I would note, however, that very few serious students of The Book of Mormon over here believe this is a correct teaching.
    Whether Newton referenced the ancestry link as Nephite/Lamanite is really a minor point to carry on about. Obviously Hagoth was a Nephite (as you note, Newton demonstrates she knows this) yet knowing he was a Nephite gives no detail as to his actual lineage – he or his family line could have been a direct descendant of Laman and converted and ‘became a Nephite’, or he could be from another population all together that joined the Nephites. All in all, ancestry semantics and Newton’s use of the term as you like to highlight are a minor issue compared to the erroneous and widespread belief of Polynesians being an actual descent of Hagoth. This is the substance of her argument and you have side stepped to carelessly nit-pick. The fact you call this point out to me demonstrates how proud you are with this issue, yet it is petty at best and I don’t think you 1000 words on this topic were well spent.
    Your focus on her apparent ‘Lamanite descent error’ reads a little desperate in trying to discredit her marvellous and detailed work in your online essay. I am surprised you are taking such a fundamental approach to the terminology use of Lamanite/Nephite when someone of your alleged experience as a LDS and academic should know better. Lamanite is a term that has also been used culturally to reference all Lehi’s descendants. Whether or not this is correct usage is beside the point – at some time it entered the LDS general membership vernacular.
    For example, this is noted in the New Era 1975 by Ross T Christensen who notes that:
    “The word [Lamanite] is also often used in two ways that are not justified by the Book of Mormon: (4) Descendants of all seven of the lineages as they exist at present—the entire posterity of Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram (but the term Lamanite cannot cover all these, not in a racial sense at least); (5) All American Indians together.”
    As such, perhaps you should also call out all papers ever written that have incorrectly referenced Native Americans as ‘Lamanites’, when clearly they came from multiple ethnic groups. Of course, the term Lamanite has many different meanings, and if Newton has used it in the sense that Christensen identifies was common (although as he notes, is note justified by the actual text of the Book of Mormon) they I don’t think it is as an impressive find in her work as you do (perhaps a useful clarification only). I think your reference to the recent DNA debate has some credibility in a possible influence on her use of the terminology, yet clearly the above article of 1975 highlighted this was common well before any DNA Studies. Either way, well done to point it out – but move on quickly and get back to the substantive issues, which you seem to ignore.
    The fact is the many Polynesian did and do believe in the Hagoth connection – I’ve heard it many times on Fast Sundays, in lessons, as a missionary and in conversations. And guess what, they often refer to themselves as Lamanite and/or Nephite descendants. Shock horror! This doesn’t discredit all the other wonderful aspects and stories surrounding the growth of the church in Australia and New Zealand, yet to try to re-write history based on desktop research – it’s just not compelling.

    • Ryan Watson claims that “it is very disingenuous to assert that Polynesians did not believe (some still do today) that they were descendants of Hagoth.” I fully agree with this assertion; he is exactly right abut this. I want to add to his “disingenuous” the following words: flatly false, mendacious, dishonest, and duplicitous. Why? I have known since I was something like twelve years old that Maori Saints believe that they are in part the descendants of those Nephite mariners mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

      What I have argued in my essay is that Marjorie Newton, in wrongly assuming that two violent critics of the Church of Jesus Christ, one of whom is Australian, and neither of whom are population geneticists, have not demonstrated that Maori and Pacific Islanders cannot possibly be Children of Lehi, and also that they have not shown that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text. Instead, I have demonstrated the Newton wrong in insisting that the Brethren ought to announce that the Maori and other Pacific Islanders have been talked into believing bunk by missionaries and the Brethren. To make this claim she has had to ignore the findings of competent Latter-day Saint scholars. In addition, Ryan Watson has not followed my argument. The fact that Ryan does not believe that it is even possible for Maori and Pacific Islanders to be Children of Lehi, is not an argument but merely a bald assertion.

      Please note that Ryan eventually admits that my reference to the recent DNA debate, which Newton clearly misunderstands, actually has, as he puts it, some credibility in a possible influence” leading to her claim that Maori believe that the are Lamanites. He thinks I should have merely pointed out her confusion over this matter, and then “quickly” gotten back “to the substantive issues,” which he then claims I have ignored. It is also not clear exactly what he thinks these “substantive issues” are.

      One substantive issue, from my perspective, is Newton’s confusion over the DNA debate, and also her claim that the Maori Saints have been tricked into believing that they are the Children of Lehi, and that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ should admit that this is not possible, which is what both Ryan Watson and Marjorie Newton believe. Ryan Watson asserts that doing this “doesn’t discredit all the other wonderful aspects and stories surrounding the growth of the church in Australia and New Zealand….” One of these stories, which Newton strives to explain away or ignore, is the primary reason that beginning on Christmas Day in 1882, for the first times began to become Latter-day Saints because of divine special revelation to them. In Newton’s 2012 narrative history entitled Tiki and Temple she tells the series of remarkable stories rather well. But in her 2014 Mormon and Maori she ignores solid evidence that those stories are simply true, and brushes aside the evidence just as she did in her PhD thesis.

      Earlier Ryan Watson indicated that he had “enjoyed reading some of Marjorie’s work.” So have I, as I explain in detail in my essay. I trust that he has at least glanced at the appendix to my essay, where I list the all her publication up to the date in which my essay was published. What I have demonstrated is that her 1998 PhD thesis, which she has explained was her objective work written for and with the assumptions of the secular religious studies community, is very seriously flawed, as is its 2014 published version, while her faith-affirming Tiki and Temple, which was addressed to faithful Latter-day Saints is really quite good.

      Finally, I beg readers to read Ryan Watson’s last paragraph and try to make sense out of it. Who exactly is trying “to re-write history based on desktop research”? I have five or six times spent long periods in New Zealand. I have also lived in New Zealand Twice, each time for two years. I am not the one whose opinions rest only on what is merely “desktop research.”

      • Louis Midgley (since the apparent process here is to write ‘about’ the other person and not ‘to’ them) missed the mark again and failed in his reply to acknowledge or respond to the major focus of my response (posted in two parts), being:

        1. Referencing Nephite ancestors as Lamanites has precedent and it is not necessarily an error of Newton’s work as he tried to highlight.
        2. The Church does not have an official position that Hagoth (and company) are the ancestors of the Polynesian people.
        3. Rejection of his insinuation that my previous comments exemplify Bigotry (which he understandably dodged responding to altogether)
        4. Recognising that Australians by definition includes Polynesians (and many other peoples)

        Polynesians being a decedent of Hagoth, as Midgley believes, is but one of multiple theories connected to Hagoth and those people that entered the ships. This is not official church teaching. Quoting a signed letter from the first presidency by Elder Tanner and Elder Romney:

        “In your letter of September 6, 1972, you ask if the Polynesian people are Lamanites or Nephites. There has been much speculation about the origin of these people. We have, however, no scriptural evidence or revelation from the Lord that would tell us exactly where these people came from or their background.”

        No scriptural evidence? I agree. Note this letter comes after the many prayers and talks by leaders of the church who used poetic language to describe Polynesian people as the “Children of Lehi”. There have been some that continued to draw the connection after this letter was penned, but there is still not an accepted view endorsed by the Church. This is perhaps something Midgley could have included in his paper to avoid perpetuating one Hagoth theory over another. I accept this Hagoth theory as possible (we just don’t know), but reject it as a teaching that should be perpetuated. Its influence was significant in church growth and conversion in the island countries as Newton rightly highlights.

        There are countless examples of leaders of the church, Eg Spencer Kimball, referring to Lamanites as decedents of Lehi. In fact, Kimball specifically calls the members of the church (in a July 1971 article called Of Royal Blood) in the pacific as LAMANITES, consistent with Newton’s classification:

        “Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand. The Church is deeply interested in all Lamanites because of these revelations and because of this great Book of Mormon, their history that was written on plates of gold and deposited in the hill.’

        If Newton is in error for referencing Polynesians as Lamanites (as decedents of Hagoth) then, according to Midgley, Spencer W Kimball is too.

        I have clearly shown there is no officially accepted Hagoth position as Midgley purports. Perhaps they drowned, perhaps the ventured further north in North America, perhaps they made their way to Japan. It is unrevealed and unknown, despite the personal opinions expressed by various leaders of the church over time. It is likely many of them were ‘following the lead’ of those missionaries (not church leaders) who seem to have made the initial and unsubstantiated connection of Hagoth to the Polynesian people.

        These views held by members, and leaders, of the church were during the same period many members and church leaders held the opinion that the Lamanites were the ‘principal ancestors of the American Indians.’ Again, the meaning of ‘Lamanite’ requires discussion beyond the scope of this reply. Polynesians may have been of Nephite descent, but then by definition they became Lamanites through an apostasy that must have occurred. The Book of Mormon indicates that Nephites were destroyed – Moroni, who knew of Hagoth, does not seem to have any hope of a Nephite Branch surviving towards his death – his focus is towards only Lamanites.

        Midgley should note that the oral traditions of the Maori’s indicating they came from a great distance are plainly obvious – no matter where they came from, their ancestors would have had to travel great distances to get to the islands of the pacific and New Zealand. Even if they did come from the Americas, there is no sure case that is was from one of Hagoth’s ships or the decedents of these people. Teaching this theory is problematic and unnecessary.

        Newton was not incorrect to refer to the Polynesians as Lamanites, despite Hagoth being among Nephites. She was not confused over Hagoth and did not incorrectly claim Lamanite descent. To claim such is bunk.

  8. comment continued….

    I wouldn’t get your knickers in a knot too much regarding the incorrect cultural beliefs that permeated Polynesian, and more broadly, Australian and the Pacific LDS culture. There are, and have been, many erroneous beliefs held among LDS since 1830 – and Hagoth is certainly one of them.

    As for your claim and insinuation of my opinions being “…a nasty bit of bigotry” – I admit was caught off guard when I read that, almost nasty, comment. You have, like you did with Newton, put words into my mouth. My family had a good laugh at this part of your response, since I am married to a Cook Islander. Oops, there you go again. Don’t assume on a name.

    I specifically said “…members of the church in the Pacific Area…” – that is not, just as your own personal bias has interpreted, solely Caucasian Australian Citizens. Reading someone’s remark and then applying your rose-coloured filter and extrapolating things that are not there seems to be a trend. I was referencing members across Australia, New Zealand and many Island Nations. Many Polynesian and islanders know there are tall tales that are part of the church and Polynesian culture. This is 2018, not 1950. No one is angry about it, it’s recognised and accepted. If Pa wants to tell a story we know isn’t true, we let him, and then eat dinner.

    Furthermore, you might be surprised to know that many “Australians” are also Polynesians. We don’t differentiate the way you have. There is no ignorance nor bigotry – at least not over here.

  9. On January 6, 2019 at 7:42PM, R Watson (hereafter RW) claimed that I “missed the mark again and failed in [my] reply to acknowledge or respond to the major focus of [his] response….” I will quote each of RW’s complaints, after which I will comment or respond following my own initials LM. (I adopt this convention merely to avoid having to type our full names over and over.)

    RW: “1. Referencing Nephite ancestors as Lamanites has precedent and it is not necessarily an error of Newton’s work as he tried to highlight.”
    LM: I agree, but not when one takes seriously the language in Alma 63:5-8, unless one is trying to somehow use Simon Southerton’s opinion that DNA evidence demonstrates that the Book of Mormon is not an authentic ancient history.

    RW: “2. The Church does not have an official position that Hagoth (and company) are the ancestors of the Polynesian people.”
    LM: I agree. That is not a good reason for the Brethren not to “officially” denounce what Maori believe.

    RW: “3. Rejection of [Midgley’s] insinuation that my previous comments exemplify Bigotry (which he understandably dodged responding to altogether)”
    LM: It was not an insinuation but a blunt assertion. RW provided no evidence that Maori (and other Pacific Islanders are any more prone to telling tall tales than are any other ethnic group. RW’s evidence is that his wife’s father–whom he calls “Pa”–regularly tells tall tales. To generalize from that to claiming that Maori and Pacific Islanders is absurd, and very offensive. Does RW think that there is a genetic disposition for Maori to fib, while “white” Australians are immune from doing so?

    RW: “4. “Recognising that Australians by definition includes Polynesians (and many other peoples).
    LM: One can, of course, include Aboriginal peoples, Greeks, Asians and even sharks or birds living in Australia as Polynesians. This by “by definition” approach gets close to what is sometimes called a category mistake. What exactly would be the point of defining the word “Polynesia” in that way?

    RW: “Polynesians being a decedent of Hagoth, as Midgley believes, is but one of multiple theories connected to Hagoth and those people that entered the ships.
    LM: Well it is one of at least one other way of understanding Alma 63:5-8.

    RW Doing “This is not official church teaching.”
    LM: I agree. And also find nothing noteworthy about the 6 September 1972 letter.

    DW: “This is perhaps something Midgley could have included in his paper to avoid perpetuating one Hagoth theory over another. I accept this Hagoth theory as possible (we just don’t know), but reject it as a teaching that should be perpetuated (emphasis supplied).
    LM: I also accept the common belief of Maori Saints that they are “Children of Lehi” through Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. The reason I proposed that Marjorie Newton twice indicated that Alma 63:5-8 mentions only Nephites, and then dozens of times has the Maori believe they are somehow Lamanites. She wrongly believes that Simon Southerton has only demonstrated that Lamanites can only now be found in Mesoamerica, when he actually insists that DNA studies prove that there were never an Lehites anywhere.

    RW: “Its influence,” that is, the belief that they are the descendants of Lamanites, “was significant in church growth and conversion in the island countries as Newton rightly highlights.”
    LM: I agree, except that they read Alma 63:5-8 correctly as making them, at least in part, the remote ancestors of Nephites.

    RW: “There are countless examples of leaders of the church, Eg Spencer Kimball, referring to Lamanites as decedents of Lehi.
    LM: This is correct; since the Book of Mormon is addressed to the remnant of the Lamanites. The name Lamanite derives from one of Lehi’s son.

    RW: “In fact, Kimball specifically calls the members of the church (in a July 1971 article called Of Royal Blood) in the pacific as LAMANITES, consistent with Newton’s classification: ‘Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand. The Church is deeply interested in all Lamanites because of these revelations and because of this great Book of Mormon, their history that was written on plates of gold and deposited in the hill.’”
    LM: I agree with what RW quotes above.

    RW: “If Newton is in error for referencing Polynesians as Lamanites (as decedents of Hagoth) then, according to Midgley, Spencer W Kimball is too.”
    LM: I believe, just as Maori Latter-day Saints, if they think about this, also see Elder Kimball as being mistaken on this detail.

    RW: I have clearly shown there is no officially accepted Hagoth position as Midgley purports.”
    LM: I did not say that there was what RW (and Marjorie Newton) call an “official position” on this matter–that is, I did not falsely claim or “purport” that there…

  10. continued from earlier response to RW…
    RW: I have clearly shown there is no officially accepted Hagoth position as Midgley purports.”
    LM: I did not say that there was what RW (and Marjorie Newton) call an “official position” on this matter–that is, I did not falsely claim or “purport” that there was.

    RW: “Perhaps they,” that is, the Nephite mariners, “drowned, perhaps the[y] ventured further north in North America, perhaps they made their way to Japan.”
    LM: All these and many more are possible.

    RW: “It is unrevealed and unknown, despite the personal opinions expressed by various leaders of the church over time.”
    LM: There is no canonized scripture that settles the matter. What is “known and unknown” is a matter of conjecture, since there is no official statement on the matter.

    RW: “It is likely many of them were ‘following the lead’ of those missionaries (not church leaders) who seem to have made the initial and unsubstantiated connection of Hagoth to the Polynesian people.”
    LM: Why “is it likely [that] many of them [Apostles and Prophets” were just picking up some of the often wild speculation of missionaries on this matter? What is the evidence that this is “likely”?
    RW: “These views held by members, and leaders, of the church were during the same period many members and church leaders held the opinion that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.”
    LM: Not true. It was Elder Bruce McConkie who wrote the head notes for the version of the Book of Mormon thought that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This statement was placed in that “unofficial” and “uncononised” headnote in my lifetime. And hence not when Apostles and Prophets first indicated that they believed that the Maori and other Pacific Islanders were Children of Lehi. President Heber J. Grant, in the dedicatory prayer to the first LDS Temple in Hawaii in 1919, which is well over fifty years before Elder McConkie fashioned those headnotes for an edition of the Book of Mormon.

    RW: “Polynesians may have been of Nephite descent, but then by definition they became Lamanites through an apostasy that must have occurred.
    LM: Whose definition? As I pointed out in my essay, the Maori I knew in 1950-52, who applied the prophetic warnings in the Book of Mormon to themselves, would say that they sometimes acted like Lamanites, as did “naughty missionaries.”

    RW: “The Book of Mormon indicates that Nephites were destroyed…”
    LM: Of course! That is what Moroni experienced. But his experience would not have precluded a parties of Nephites sailing away into the west sea from the narrow neck in about 60BC.

    RW: “Moroni, who knew of Hagoth, does not seem to have any hope of a Nephite Branch surviving towards his death – his focus is towards only Lamanites.”
    LM: True and false. Mormon was the redactor of what we have in the Book of Mormon. Moroni may not have been familiar with Hagoth. We should not merely assume that he did in an effort to flatly deny that the Maori, as I also believe, could be the descendants of the Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. RW has already granted that this is a possibility.

    RW: Midgley should note that the oral traditions of the Maori’s indicating they came from a great distance are plainly obvious – no matter where they came from, their ancestors would have had to travel great distances to get to the islands of the pacific and New Zealand.
    LM: This is a strange comment. Where in my essay on Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori challenged Maori oral traditions? I am not the one challenging Maori oral traditions. Last month I had an opportunity to meet and have a look at some very old marae on Mo’orea in the Society Islands, with Mark Eddowes, who is an archaeologist, and the expert on marae in French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands. He has used Addison Pratt’s diary to locate places to dig on Tubuai in the Australs, where Pratt became the first Latter-day Saint to teach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in a foreign language. The Latter-day Saint community he gathered is still flourishing. (Eddowes has a contract from UNESCO to dig on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. (He insists that it is the most beautiful atoll in the world.) Why, I wonder does not RW think he needs to remind me of Maori oral traditions, and the great distances they had to travel.

    RW: Even if they did come from the Americas, there is no sure case that is was from one of Hagoth’s ships or the decedents of these people.
    LM: No one, including Maori Latter-day Saints, claims that the Maori sailed directly from Mesoamerica to New Zealand. Please notice that RW granted that it could have happened, but then makes a huge fuss about there being proof that if it did happen. I agree that there is no final proof on this matter.

    RW: “Teaching this theory is problematic and unnecessary.”
    LM: It is, of course, problematic and unnecessary for those who, for whatever reason…

  11. continued from earlier response to RW…
    RW: “Perhaps they,” that is, the Nephite mariners, “drowned, perhaps the[y] ventured further north in North America, perhaps they made their way to Japan.”
    LM: All these and many more are possible.

    RW: “It is unrevealed and unknown, despite the personal opinions expressed by various leaders of the church over time.”
    LM: There is no canonized scripture that settles the matter. What is “known and unknown” is a matter of conjecture, since there is no official statement on the matter.

    RW: “It is likely many of them were ‘following the lead’ of those missionaries (not church leaders) who seem to have made the initial and unsubstantiated connection of Hagoth to the Polynesian people.”
    LM: Why “is it likely [that] many of them [Apostles and Prophets” were just picking up some of the often wild speculation of missionaries on this matter? What is the evidence that this is “likely”?
    RW: “These views held by members, and leaders, of the church were during the same period many members and church leaders held the opinion that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.”
    LM: Not true. It was Elder Bruce McConkie who wrote the head notes for the version of the Book of Mormon thought that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This statement was placed in that “unofficial” and “uncononised” headnote in my lifetime. And hence not when Apostles and Prophets first indicated that they believed that the Maori and other Pacific Islanders were Children of Lehi. President Heber J. Grant, in the dedicatory prayer to the first LDS Temple in Hawaii in 1919, which is well over fifty years before Elder McConkie fashioned those headnotes for an edition of the Book of Mormon.

    RW: “Polynesians may have been of Nephite descent, but then by definition they became Lamanites through an apostasy that must have occurred.
    LM: Whose definition? As I pointed out in my essay, the Maori I knew in 1950-52, who applied the prophetic warnings in the Book of Mormon to themselves, would say that they sometimes acted like Lamanites, as did “naughty missionaries.”

    RW: “The Book of Mormon indicates that Nephites were destroyed…”
    LM: Of course! That is what Moroni experienced. But his experience would not have precluded a parties of Nephites sailing away into the west sea from the narrow neck in about 60BC.

    RW: “Moroni, who knew of Hagoth, does not seem to have any hope of a Nephite Branch surviving towards his death – his focus is towards only Lamanites.”
    LM: True and false. Mormon was the redactor of what we have in the Book of Mormon. Moroni may not have been familiar with Hagoth. We should not merely assume that he did in an effort to flatly deny that the Maori, as I also believe, could be the descendants of the Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. RW has already granted that this is a possibility.

    RW: Midgley should note that the oral traditions of the Maori’s indicating they came from a great distance are plainly obvious – no matter where they came from, their ancestors would have had to travel great distances to get to the islands of the pacific and New Zealand.
    LM: This is a strange comment. Where in my essay on Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori challenged Maori oral traditions? I am not the one challenging Maori oral traditions. Last month I had an opportunity to meet and have a look at some very old marae on Mo’orea in the Society Islands, with Mark Eddowes, who is an archaeologist, and the expert on marae in French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands. He has used Addison Pratt’s diary to locate places to dig on Tubuai in the Australs, where Pratt became the first Latter-day Saint to teach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in a foreign language. The Latter-day Saint community he gathered is still flourishing. (Eddowes has a contract from UNESCO to dig on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. (He insists that it is the most beautiful atoll in the world.) Why, I wonder does not RW think he needs to remind me of Maori oral traditions, and the great distances they had to travel.

    RW: Even if they did come from the Americas, there is no sure case that is was from one of Hagoth’s ships or the decedents of these people.
    LM: No one, including Maori Latter-day Saints, claims that the Maori sailed directly from Mesoamerica to New Zealand. Please notice that RW granted that it could have happened, but then makes a huge fuss about there being proof that if it did happen. I agree that there is no final proof on this matter.

    RW: “Teaching this theory is problematic and unnecessary.”
    LM: It is, of course, problematic and unnecessary for those who, for whatever reason simply do not want it to be true

  12. continued from earlier response to RW…
    RW: “Newton was not incorrect to refer to the Polynesians as Lamanites, despite Hagoth being among Nephites. She was not confused over Hagoth and did not incorrectly claim Lamanite descent. To claim such is bunk.
    LM: Would it not be incorrect if I were to refer to RW as a Kiwi, despite the fact that he is actually an Aussie? One could do this my simply saying that this is true “by definition”? This would only make sense if Kiwi always was understood as Aussie in ordinary discourse, which is obviously not the case, and it would also be a strange way of trying to find what is true, would it not?

    RW: “I wouldn’t get your knickers in a knot too much regarding the incorrect cultural beliefs that permeated Polynesian, and more broadly, Australian and the Pacific LDS culture. There are, and have been, many erroneous beliefs held among LDS since 1830 – and Hagoth is certainly one of them.
    LM: This is merely a bald assertion that is not back by any evidence.

    RW: “As for [Midgley’s] claim and insinuation of my opinions being ‘…a nasty bit of bigotry’ – I admit was caught off guard when I read that, almost nasty, comment. You have, like you did with Newton, put words into my mouth. My family had a good laugh at this part of your response, since I am married to a Cook Islander. Oops, there you go again. Don’t assume on a name.”
    LM: and then RW added the following: “I specifically said ‘…members of the church in the Pacific Area…’ – that is not, just as your own personal bias has interpreted, solely Caucasian Australian Citizens. Reading someone’s remark and then applying your rose-coloured filter and extrapolating things that are not there seems to be a trend. I was referencing members across Australia, New Zealand and many Island Nations. Many Polynesian and islanders know there are tall tales that are part of the church and Polynesian culture.”
    LM: Whatever RW thinks he knows about what “many Polynesian and islanders know” about their proclivity to tell what RW calls “tall tales,” does he believe that his opinion somehow justifies Marjorie Newton’s ignoring, rejecting and explained away the contents of the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative? I doubt that she wants or deserves this kind of defense of her Mormon and Maori. I have twice done a google search on name and cannot locate him. I know nothing about RW except that he is married to someone from the Cook Islands. Has he served as a missionary? If so, when and where? Where did he attend university? I am confident that he would not say to me, if we were having lunch, the things he has posted on comments to a Latter-day Saint academic journal. Take for example, the following: “If Pa wants to tell a story we know isn’t true, we let him, and then eat dinner.” Does he think that this sort of thing is evidence for his demeaning generalization about Polynesians? Does he imagine that this kind of remark is the proper way of defending Marjorie Newton’s ignoring, brushing aside and explaining away the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative? Does RW think that she was justified in doing that because his wife’s father tells “a story we know is not true,” and “we let him, and then eat dinner”?

    RW: “Furthermore, You [Midgley] might be surprised to know that many “Australians” are also Polynesians. We don’t differentiate the way you have. There is no ignorance nor bigotry – at least not over here.
    LM: My wife and I once enjoyed the hospitality of Tongan and Samoan Saints in Australia. We have visited Australia twice, and loved every minute of it. In addition, dozens of the returned missionaries who we served at the Lorne Street Institute in 1999-2000 had served in Australia, and they were all Maori, Samoan and Tongan.

    Unless Ryan Watson indicates that he regrets his lack of civility, and personal attacks on me, and indicates that he has read those five essays on the faith of Maori Saints available on the Interpreter website, and also indicates exactly which of Marjorie Newton’s publications he has read, I will not respond to anything he post again, and I may insist that the moderator not post anything he submits.

    • On January 8, 2019 at 7:31 am, Louis Midgley provided a very detailed response to some of my comments. I hereby follow the same format in my response, removing my initial comment (which is available in the comments above) and replying to his replies.

      Louis Midgley (LM) said:
      LM: I agree, but not when one takes seriously the language in Alma 63:5-8, unless one is trying to somehow use Simon Southerton’s opinion that DNA evidence demonstrates that the Book of Mormon is not an authentic ancient history.
      RW: I think you are conflating a Hagoth theory with my objection to your criticism on Newton that it was grossly incorrect of her to reference Polynesians as Lamanites, when clearly this has been a general practice across decades as highlighted in my previous posts. You keep bringing in Southerton’s DNA study – the general point I’m making is you assume this was the driver for her Lamanite reference despite the fact church culture has used this term repeatedly – and is the likely source of her usage. It is also incorrect to keep linking Newton to Southerton as though her views align with his, which they clearly do not.

      LM: I agree. That is not a good reason for the Brethren not to “officially” denounce what Maori believe.
      RW: I agree in part. I see no denouncing of Maori culture, but cultural belief does not dictate the views that the church and its members should ascribe to, especially when there is confusion over who promulgated this theory to present day – Maori’s or church missionaries and leaders. Let them believe what they believe, yet recognise (as you have) that this is a theory and members (including Maori’s) who don’t ascribe to this theory are not somehow trashing the Maori people and their culture.

      LM: It was not an insinuation but a blunt assertion. RW provided no evidence that Maori (and other Pacific Islanders are any more prone to telling tall tales than are any other ethnic group. RW’s evidence is that his wife’s father–whom he calls “Pa”–regularly tells tall tales. To generalize from that to claiming that Maori and Pacific Islanders is absurd, and very offensive. Does RW think that there is a genetic disposition for Maori to fib, while “white” Australians are immune from doing so?
      RW: I should have been clearer with this comment – there is nothing in it like you suggest. I’m speaking from my own experience of which I have a family that is part European and part Polynesian. Of course all peoples tell stories with embellishments, especially oral histories, yet the focus of this discussion is Maori truth claims perpetuated by members. I do not ascribe to the words you attribute to me that there is a genetic disposition to fib and find that comment desperate and poorly played. Again, what do you mean by “Australian’s” – are you referring to Australians that are not Polynesian?

      LM: One can, of course, include Aboriginal peoples, Greeks, Asians and even sharks or birds living in Australia as Polynesians. This by “by definition” approach gets close to what is sometimes called a category mistake. What exactly would be the point of defining the word “Polynesia” in that way?
      RW: Fancy footwork, but any other reader would understand my point and it’s a rather illogical comment you made once you went to animals. The point is, referencing your earlier remake, that there is no bigotry by Australian’s towards Polynesians (many Polynesians consider themselves Australians too – and yes, may other countries) and when I say ‘Pacific Area’ I mean the whole area and all people, not just Australia without the Polynesians as you assume.

      LM: Well it is one of at least one other way of understanding Alma 63:5-8.
      RW: Possibly, it’s still unsubstantiated and unnecessary, especially since you claim you have ‘known’ since you were 12. Do you mean know, believed, or hoped? As it has not been revealed or supported by scripture as the Brethren have said.

      LM: I agree. And also find nothing noteworthy about the 6 September 1972 letter.
      RW: We agree it’s not an official view.

      LM: I also accept the common belief of Maori Saints that they are “Children of Lehi” through Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. The reason I proposed that Marjorie Newton twice indicated that Alma 63:5-8 mentions only Nephites, and then dozens of times has the Maori believe they are somehow Lamanites. She wrongly believes that Simon Southerton has only demonstrated that Lamanites can only now be found in Mesoamerica, when he actually insists that DNA studies prove that there were never an Lehites anywhere.
      RW: You will need to quote me Newton’s text to support this assertion – I don’t agree. Mesoamerica as a location is also a theory btw (yet a reasonably good, and perhaps, the leading one). Newton is not the only, or first, or last person to reference Maori as Lamanites (which they would have been by definition of Lamanite as used in the book of Mormon – it’s not always a genetic term as you know).

    • Cont….
      LM: This is a strange comment. Where in my essay on Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori challenged Maori oral traditions? I am not the one challenging Maori oral traditions. Last month I had an opportunity to meet and have a look at some very old marae on Mo’orea in the Society Islands, with Mark Eddowes, who is an archaeologist, and the expert on marae in French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands. He has used Addison Pratt’s diary to locate places to dig on Tubuai in the Australs, where Pratt became the first Latter-day Saint to teach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in a foreign language. The Latter-day Saint community he gathered is still flourishing. (Eddowes has a contract from UNESCO to dig on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. (He insists that it is the most beautiful atoll in the world.) Why, I wonder does not RW think he needs to remind me of Maori oral traditions, and the great distances they had to travel.
      RW: I perhaps was not clear on this point. Any ancient story that describes people travelling on a boat could arguably be applied to the Polynesians if it were to fit appropriate time frames. The Hagoth ship / Canoe correlation is merely that.

      LM: No one, including Maori Latter-day Saints, claims that the Maori sailed directly from Mesoamerica to New Zealand. Please notice that RW granted that it could have happened, but then makes a huge fuss about there being proof that if it did happen. I agree that there is no final proof on this matter.
      RW: I wasn’t suggesting a direct trip. Note also Lehi’s likely wasn’t direct. Hagoths, we don’t know – they could have drowned as the BOM people assumed. If it’s a true theory, then obviously there were many voyages over a period of time. Newton is on the money with this point. It’s dangerous to build faith upon theories, and unnecessary.

      LM: It is, of course, problematic and unnecessary for those who, for whatever reason simply do not want it to be true
      RW: No, it’s also a problem when faith is built upon ideas that at a future point turn out to be incorrect. It’s not a required teaching to promote faith, and has been emphasised too much.

      LM: Would it not be incorrect if I were to refer to RW as a Kiwi, despite the fact that he is actually an Aussie? One could do this my simply saying that this is true “by definition”? This would only make sense if Kiwi always was understood as Aussie in ordinary discourse, which is obviously not the case, and it would also be a strange way of trying to find what is true, would it not?
      RW: Yes you would be incorrect. Unless I moved to New Zealand and become a New Zealand citizen, then I’m happy to be rightly called a Kiwi. But since I am an Australian citizen, like my cook Islander wife, you can call us Australians.
      .

    • LM: Whatever RW thinks he knows about what “many Polynesian and islanders know” about their proclivity to tell what RW calls “tall tales,” does he believe that his opinion somehow justifies Marjorie Newton’s ignoring, rejecting and explained away the contents of the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative? I doubt that she wants or deserves this kind of defense of her Mormon and Maori. I have twice done a google search on name and cannot locate him. I know nothing about RW except that he is married to someone from the Cook Islands. Has he served as a missionary? If so, when and where? Where did he attend university? I am confident that he would not say to me, if we were having lunch, the things he has posted on comments to a Latter-day Saint academic journal. Take for example, the following: “If Pa wants to tell a story we know isn’t true, we let him, and then eat dinner.” Does he think that this sort of thing is evidence for his demeaning generalization about Polynesians? Does he imagine that this kind of remark is the proper way of defending Marjorie Newton’s ignoring, brushing aside and explaining away the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative? Does RW think that she was justified in doing that because his wife’s father tells “a story we know is not true,” and “we let him, and then eat dinner”?
      RW: This charged comment is too much about me and not the issues we are discussing. I’m not sure how knowing about me via a google search adds to this issues of this debate. Don’t be triggered by my reference to my family experience and please stick to issues without putting words in my mouth or attributing motivations to me. Don’t assume I only think Polynesians say things that are not 100% true in their oral histories. Everyone does. But we are talking about Newtons work and your criticisms of her ‘agenda’ and Polynesian tradition. I suspect I love the Polynesian people at least as much as you do. I am part of a huge family, and many in my family have been surprised with your initial response to me. I prefer to keep to your critique on Newton and the Hagoth theory (which you initially called out to me in your first response). It’s not needed to maintain the faith. I accept so much of Polynesian culture and tradition, but my point is Hagoth is not something to build faith on. Newton identifies its influence over the years and the problems with attaching too closely to a theory.

      LM: My wife and I once enjoyed the hospitality of Tongan and Samoan Saints in Australia. We have visited Australia twice, and loved every minute of it. In addition, dozens of the returned missionaries who we served at the Lorne Street Institute in 1999-2000 had served in Australia, and they were all Maori, Samoan and Tongan.
      RW: Yes, they keep their cultural identity – my reference to this point I raised was in the context I used the term Pacific Area and Australian’s, and the way you seemed to misinterpret it.

      LM: Unless Ryan Watson indicates that he regrets his lack of civility, and personal attacks on me, and indicates that he has read those five essays on the faith of Maori Saints available on the Interpreter website, and also indicates exactly which of Marjorie Newton’s publications he has read, I will not respond to anything he post again, and I may insist that the moderator not post anything he submits.
      RW: I’m happy to leave the comment back and forth now for others to read. I apologise if I have come off with a lack of civility and for any personal attacks (?) – However, I don’t recall attributing ignorance or bigotry towards you, or asking you for more of your personal details online (for whatever reason that would add to the discussion).
      I am happy for a moderator to adjust or restrict my comments if they are deemed inappropriate; however, this call seems much more like a …’effort to prevent a free and open conversation – don’t you think?
      I am not personally attacking you. I made a brief comment initially on your post agreeing with the tone on Newtons work – and you responded with detail, and I have afforded you the dialogue.
      I think we have both made our positions clear on this matter (at least the Hagoth theory and usage of the term Lamanite). I would enjoy reading a paper that discusses the Hagoth theory in more detail, linking with Maori (and other) traditions, recognising the (and I agree with you, incorrect) recent DNA claims, the absence of an official view of the church, etc – it potentially would be a fascinating read and perhaps someone like yourself would be most suited. Clearly one thing we know is the BOM people knew how to get around when they wanted to – by land or sea.
      Thank you for the discussion – I enjoy having my views challenged and the opportunity to discuss issues that are close to me. I encourage all readers to read Midgley’s articles on this site and Newton’s work and draw their own conclusions.

    • Comment cont.
      LM: I agree, except that they read Alma 63:5-8 correctly as making them, at least in part, the remote ancestors of Nephites.
      RW: Correctly? No. It’s an assumption and theory. Let’s hope it’s never disproved because you will be on a sandy foundation. There is no need to teach this to strengthen and retain members – and its reference should always be referenced as a theory, not conflated as a fact. An those that challenge the theory are not trashing Maori Culture – ask any Maori who is not LDS.

      LM: This is correct; since the Book of Mormon is addressed to the remnant of the Lamanites. The name Lamanite derives from one of Lehi’s son.
      RW: Agree.

      LM: I agree with what RW quotes above.
      RW: Newton is therefore not some rouge LDS writer that is blinded by DNA studies of former LDS and antagonist’s but following a culture use of the term.

      LM: I believe, just as Maori Latter-day Saints, if they think about this, also see Elder Kimball as being mistaken on this detail.
      RW: Noted. Again the point here was really to emphasise that Newton is not alone with her usage.

      LM: I did not say that there was what RW (and Marjorie Newton) call an “official position” on this matter–that is, I did not falsely claim or “purport” that there was.
      RW: Agree, I see it ‘implied’ in your writing.

      LM: All these and many more are possible.
      RW: Agree.

      LM: There is no canonized scripture that settles the matter. What is “known and unknown” is a matter of conjecture, since there is no official statement on the matter.
      RW: Agree, and therefore placing such emphasis on a teaching is unnecessary and this is in my view what Newton was trying to discuss. The potential for ‘shaken faith syndrome’ increases when theories such as these get too much air time – which this one has for decades.

      LM: Why “is it likely [that] many of them [Apostles and Prophets” were just picking up some of the often wild speculation of missionaries on this matter? What is the evidence that this is “likely”?
      RW: Appeal to authority – fail. We have prophets and apostles that do not ascribe to the Hagoth theory as factual. Poetic terminology, and a correct understanding of what a Lamanite can be, justifies a loose using of the term only. This comment had an element of tongue-in-cheek to your previous post re Newton picking up her views from others.

      LM: Not true. It was Elder Bruce McConkie who wrote the head notes for the version of the Book of Mormon thought that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This statement was placed in that “unofficial” and “uncononised” headnote in my lifetime. And hence not when Apostles and Prophets first indicated that they believed that the Maori and other Pacific Islanders were Children of Lehi. President Heber J. Grant, in the dedicatory prayer to the first LDS Temple in Hawaii in 1919, which is well over fifty years before Elder McConkie fashioned those headnotes for an edition of the Book of Mormon.
      RW: It is true. You misread the comment or I wasn’t clear. I said it was during the same period (but of course not the only period when the Hagoth belief was held) that the introduction made that claim. Again, the ‘principal ancestors’ to me is in the same boat as Hagoth – unnecessary and potentially will require a revisiting and correction in the future.
      RW: “Polynesians may have been of Nephite descent, but then by definition they became Lamanites through an apostasy that must have occurred.
      LM: Whose definition? As I pointed out in my essay, the Maori I knew in 1950-52, who applied the prophetic warnings in the Book of Mormon to themselves, would say that they sometimes acted like Lamanites, as did “naughty missionaries.”
      RW: The book of Mormon definition. During apostasy a Nephite could become a Lamanite, as according to the Hagoth theory the Polynesians would have. You anecdotal evidence is nice, yet those that you knew, where did they get the idea from that they were from Hagoth?
      LM: Of course! That is what Moroni experienced. But his experience would not have precluded a parties of Nephites sailing away into the west sea from the narrow neck in about 60BC.
      RW: Agree, however he knew of them and made no remark. It’s just an observation of whats in (or not in) the text. And worth noting your ‘west sea’, being the Pacific Ocean, is also an assumption.

      LM: True and false. Mormon was the redactor of what we have in the Book of Mormon. Moroni may not have been familiar with Hagoth. We should not merely assume that he did in an effort to flatly deny that the Maori, as I also believe, could be the descendants of the Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. RW has already granted that this is a possibility.
      RW: Agree – I was simply noting what the text does and doesn’t say. Again, anything is possible, but I like to stick to things that have been given and teach those as faith builders, not theories such as Hagoth, however nice a…

    • Comment Cont….
      LM: This is a strange comment. Where in my essay on Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori challenged Maori oral traditions? I am not the one challenging Maori oral traditions. Last month I had an opportunity to meet and have a look at some very old marae on Mo’orea in the Society Islands, with Mark Eddowes, who is an archaeologist, and the expert on marae in French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands. He has used Addison Pratt’s diary to locate places to dig on Tubuai in the Australs, where Pratt became the first Latter-day Saint to teach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in a foreign language. The Latter-day Saint community he gathered is still flourishing. (Eddowes has a contract from UNESCO to dig on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. (He insists that it is the most beautiful atoll in the world.) Why, I wonder does not RW think he needs to remind me of Maori oral traditions, and the great distances they had to travel.
      RW: I perhaps was not clear on this point. Any ancient story that describes people travelling on a boat could arguably be applied to the Polynesians if it were to fit appropriate time frames. The Hagoth ship / Canoe correlation is merely that.

      LM: No one, including Maori Latter-day Saints, claims that the Maori sailed directly from Mesoamerica to New Zealand. Please notice that RW granted that it could have happened, but then makes a huge fuss about there being proof that if it did happen. I agree that there is no final proof on this matter.
      RW: I wasn’t suggesting a direct trip. Note also Lehi’s likely wasn’t direct. Hagoths, we don’t know – they could have drowned as the BOM people assumed. If it’s a true theory, then obviously there were many voyages over a period of time. Newton is on the money with this point. It’s dangerous to build faith upon theories, and unnecessary.

      LM: It is, of course, problematic and unnecessary for those who, for whatever reason simply do not want it to be true
      RW: No, it’s also a problem when faith is built upon ideas that at a future point turn out to be incorrect. It’s not a required teaching to promote faith, and has been emphasised too much.

      LM: Would it not be incorrect if I were to refer to RW as a Kiwi, despite the fact that he is actually an Aussie? One could do this my simply saying that this is true “by definition”? This would only make sense if Kiwi always was understood as Aussie in ordinary discourse, which is obviously not the case, and it would also be a strange way of trying to find what is true, would it not?
      RW: Yes you would be incorrect. Unless I moved to New Zealand and become a New Zealand citizen, then I’m happy to be rightly called a Kiwi. But since I am an Australian citizen, like my cook Islander wife, you can call us Australians.

    • Comment cont…
      LM: Whatever RW thinks he knows about what “many Polynesian and islanders know” about their proclivity to tell what RW calls “tall tales,” does he believe that his opinion somehow justifies Marjorie Newton’s ignoring, rejecting and explained away the contents of the Maori Latter-day Saint historical narrative? I doubt that she wants or deserves this kind of defense of her Mormon and Maori. I have twice done a google search on name and cannot locate him. I know nothing about RW except that he is married to someone from the Cook Islands. Has he served as a missionary? If so, when and where? Where did he attend university? I am confident that he would not say to me, if we were having lunch, the things he has posted on comments to a Latter-day Saint academic journal… [portion of text removed to meet the word count – refer to above comments for details]… Does RW think that she was justified in doing that because his wife’s father tells “a story we know is not true,” and “we let him, and then eat dinner”?
      RW: This charged comment is too much about me and not the issues we are discussing. I’m not sure how knowing about me via a google search adds to this issues of this debate. Don’t be triggered by my reference to my family experience and please stick to issues without putting words in my mouth or attributing motivations to me. Don’t assume I only think Polynesians say things that are not 100% true in their oral histories. Everyone does. But we are talking about Newtons work and your criticisms of her ‘agenda’ and Polynesian tradition. I suspect I love the Polynesian people at least as much as you do. I am part of a huge family, and many in my family have been surprised with your initial response to me. I prefer to keep to your critique on Newton and the Hagoth theory (which you initially called out to me in your first response). Many Polynesians I know are losing grip on this theory, and thankfully they are doing just fine. It’s not needed to maintain the faith. I accept so much of Polynesian culture and tradition, but my point is Hagoth is not something to build faith on. Newton identifies its influence over the years and the problems with attaching too closely to a theory.

      LM: My wife and I once enjoyed the hospitality of Tongan and Samoan Saints in Australia. We have visited Australia twice, and loved every minute of it. In addition, dozens of the returned missionaries who we served at the Lorne Street Institute in 1999-2000 had served in Australia, and they were all Maori, Samoan and Tongan.
      RW: Yes, they keep their cultural identity – my reference to this point I raised was in the context I used the term Pacific Area and Australian’s, and the way you seemed to misinterpret it.
      LM: Unless Ryan Watson indicates that he regrets his lack of civility, and personal attacks on me, and indicates that he has read those five essays on the faith of Maori Saints available on the Interpreter website, and also indicates exactly which of Marjorie Newton’s publications he has read, I will not respond to anything he post again, and I may insist that the moderator not post anything he submits.
      RW: I’m happy to leave the comment back and forth now for others to read. I apologise if I have come off with a lack of civility and for any personal attacks (?) – However, I don’t recall attributing ignorance or bigotry towards you, or asking you for more of your personal details online (for whatever reason that would add to the discussion).

      I am happy for a moderator to adjust or restrict my comments if they are deemed inappropriate; however, this call seems much more like a …’effort to prevent a free and open conversation – don’t you think?

      I am not personally attacking you. I made a brief comment initially on your post agreeing with the tone on Newtons work – and you responded with detail, and I have afforded you the dialogue you requested.

      I think we have both made our positions clear on this matter (at least the Hagoth theory and usage of the term Lamanite). I would enjoy reading a paper that discusses the Hagoth theory in more detail, linking with Maori (and other) traditions, recognising the (and I agree with you, incorrect) recent DNA claims, the absence of an official view of the church, etc – it potentially would be a fascinating read and perhaps someone like yourself would be most suited. Clearly one thing we know is the BOM people knew how to get around when they wanted to – by land or sea.

      Thank you for the discussion – I enjoy having my views challenged and having the opportunity to discuss issues that are close to me. I encourage all readers to read Midgley’s articles on this site and Newtons work and draw their own conclusions.

  13. Comment cont.
    LM: I agree, except that they read Alma 63:5-8 correctly as making them, at least in part, the remote ancestors of Nephites.
    RW: Correctly? No. It’s an assumption and theory. Let’s hope it’s never disproved because you will be on a sandy foundation. There is no need to teach this to strengthen and retain members – and its reference should always be referenced as a theory, not conflated as a fact. An those that challenge the theory are not trashing Maori Culture – ask any Maori who is not LDS.

    LM: This is correct; since the Book of Mormon is addressed to the remnant of the Lamanites. The name Lamanite derives from one of Lehi’s son.
    RW: Agree.

    LM: I agree with what RW quotes above.
    RW: Newton is therefore not some rouge LDS writer that is blinded by DNA studies of former LDS and antagonist’s but following a culture use of the term.

    LM: I believe, just as Maori Latter-day Saints, if they think about this, also see Elder Kimball as being mistaken on this detail.
    RW: Noted. Again the point here was really to emphasise that Newton is not alone with her usage.

    LM: I did not say that there was what RW (and Marjorie Newton) call an “official position” on this matter–that is, I did not falsely claim or “purport” that there was.
    RW: Agree, I see it ‘implied’ in your writing.

    LM: All these and many more are possible.
    RW: Agree.

    LM: There is no canonized scripture that settles the matter. What is “known and unknown” is a matter of conjecture, since there is no official statement on the matter.
    RW: Agree, and therefore placing such emphasis on a teaching is unnecessary and this is in my view what Newton was trying to discuss. The potential for ‘shaken faith syndrome’ increases when theories such as these get too much air time – which this one has for decades.

    LM: Why “is it likely [that] many of them [Apostles and Prophets” were just picking up some of the often wild speculation of missionaries on this matter? What is the evidence that this is “likely”?
    RW: Appeal to authority – fail. We have prophets and apostles that do not ascribe to the Hagoth theory as factual. Poetic terminology, and a correct understanding of what a Lamanite can be, justifies a loose using of the term only. This comment had an element of tongue-in-cheek to your previous post re Newton picking up her views from others.

    LM: Not true. It was Elder Bruce McConkie who wrote the head notes for the version of the Book of Mormon thought that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” This statement was placed in that “unofficial” and “uncononised” headnote in my lifetime. And hence not when Apostles and Prophets first indicated that they believed that the Maori and other Pacific Islanders were Children of Lehi. President Heber J. Grant, in the dedicatory prayer to the first LDS Temple in Hawaii in 1919, which is well over fifty years before Elder McConkie fashioned those headnotes for an edition of the Book of Mormon.
    RW: It is true. You misread the comment or I wasn’t clear. I said it was during the same period (but of course not the only period when the Hagoth belief was held) that the introduction made that claim. Again, the ‘principal ancestors’ to me is in the same boat as Hagoth – unnecessary and potentially will require a revisiting and correction in the future.

    LM(RW): “Polynesians may have been of Nephite descent, but then by definition they became Lamanites through an apostasy that must have occurred.
    LM: Whose definition? As I pointed out in my essay, the Maori I knew in 1950-52, who applied the prophetic warnings in the Book of Mormon to themselves, would say that they sometimes acted like Lamanites, as did “naughty missionaries.”

    RW: The book of Mormon definition. During apostasy a Nephite could become a Lamanite, as according to the Hagoth theory the Polynesians would have. You anecdotal evidence is nice, yet those that you knew, where did they get the idea from that they were from Hagoth?

    LM: Of course! That is what Moroni experienced. But his experience would not have precluded a parties of Nephites sailing away into the west sea from the narrow neck in about 60BC.
    RW: Agree, however he knew of them and made no remark. It’s just an observation of whats in (or not in) the text. And worth noting your ‘west sea’, being the Pacific Ocean, is also an assumption.

    LM: True and false. Mormon was the redactor of what we have in the Book of Mormon. Moroni may not have been familiar with Hagoth. We should not merely assume that he did in an effort to flatly deny that the Maori, as I also believe, could be the descendants of the Nephite mariners mention in Alma 63:5-8. RW has already granted that this is a possibility.
    RW: Agree – I was simply noting what the text does and doesn’t say. Again, anything is possible, but I like to stick to things that have been given and teach those as faith builders, not theories such as Hagoth, however nice…

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